Malapropism

Definition of malapropism

malapropism
/ˈmaləprɒˌpɪz(ə)m/
noun
The unintentional use of incorrect or similar sounding words.
Usually with an amusing effect.

Example: The cannon balls ate the missionaries (cannibals).

A good way to describe a malapropism is a slip of the tongue.
Malapropism belongs to the section of English called figures of speech. We use figures of speech to enrich language. They create images in the mind and we use them to express ourselves imaginatively.

As our knowledge of a language increases and we gain confidence in speaking it, our use of figures of speech will become more advanced and refined. This applies to learners as well as native speakers of any language.

Some types of simple figures of speech you are probably already very comfortable using are the basic comparative ones of similes and metaphors. As you progress in your English language learning you will start to be more familiar with the nuance of the language. You may already be proficient in the use of advanced figures of speech such as the contradictions inherent in the use of irony.

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s get back to the topic at hand – malapropism.
The word malapropism comes from Mrs. Malaprop - a character in Sheridan's comedy The Rivals.

Mrs Malaprop



Mrs Malaprop has a habit of replacing words incorrectly, producing a humorous effect.

Here are a few examples of Mrs. Malaprop's wit and wisdom:
"We will not anticipate the past, our retrospection will now be all to the future."

"The pineapple of politeness" (Instead of "pinnacle of politeness.")

"She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile" (Instead of "alligator on the banks of the Nile.")

The word also has origins in the French phrase mal à propos, which means inappropriate or incorrect.

How to use Malapropism in your writing
This is of course , an easy way to get a laugh! When a writer uses this technique to create an impression of the personality of a character it is usually for comedic effect. We all love to laugh with those characters who trip over their own tongues!

There is, however, a more subtle purpose to the use of malapropism for characterisation. Characters who mispronounce or misuse common words or phrases are either unintelligent or uneducated or both. Malapropism is used to instantly lower credibility.

One example of this technique is in the movie Head of State. The Vice President in the movie is shown to be sleazy. In one scene he mispronounces the word "facade" (fah-sahd), saying "fakade" instead. This shows the audience that the character is not the educated and intelligent man he pretends to be.

Some more examples of malapropism
  • "For all intents and purposes” is often turned into the malapropism “for all intensive purposes".
  • Baseball player Yogi Berra, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes", rather than "electoral votes"

Have you come across any uses of malapropism? I would love to hear from you in the comments section.
June 18, 2019
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Hi there. Please read the following information on my background, teaching style and how I can help you. Beginner Students: I am very comfortable and patient with beginner learners – please don’t be shy or embarrassed! I am here to help you in a patient and non-judgmental way - I promise. Advanced students: - Conversation and debate - Vocabulary tailored to your specific needs and interests - Idioms, sayings, slang & nuance - Poetry and Literature Study - Advanced Writing Assignments Please book a 30-minute trial class first! When you make the booking, send me a message indicating your level and your English language learning goals. This is critical in order to help me prepare for our class. My goal is for you to get something out of every lesson. We will focus on EXACTLY what you need and I will never waste your valuable time or money on things that are irrelevant. I have both Teaching and Business Experience and Skills: - I started teaching in 2009 and have been in a corporate environment for the last 3 years. - My teaching and business experience is extremely valuable for online English students as I have a range of skills suitable for beginner to advanced levels. My teaching experience: - Remedial Teaching: children aged 4 to 12 with a range of abilities. - Assisted Learning for children with Barriers to Learning. - Online English teaching to adults from China, Japan, Russia and Brazil - TEFL Certified My corporate experience: - Corporate Blogging - Creating written content, including infographics, for Social Media platforms. - Using copy to generate business leads - Editing - Project Management - Website back-end Management - Search Engine Optimisation - Creating and running Google Adwords Campaigns Lesson Notes & Reporting: - I take notes during class so that you can relax and focus on speaking. - I offer my students a report within 24 hours of each and every lesson which includes errors and corrections for vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. Weekend bookings available for your convenience. Let’s learn together!
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Hi there. Please read the following information on my background, teaching style and how I can help you. Beginner Students: I am very comfortable and patient with beginner learners – please don’t be shy or embarrassed! I am here to help you in a patient and non-judgmental way - I promise. Advanced students: - Conversation and debate - Vocabulary tailored to your specific needs and interests - Idioms, sayings, slang & nuance - Poetry and Literature Study - Advanced Writing Assignments Please book a 30-minute trial class first! When you make the booking, send me a message indicating your level and your English language learning goals. This is critical in order to help me prepare for our class. My goal is for you to get something out of every lesson. We will focus on EXACTLY what you need and I will never waste your valuable time or money on things that are irrelevant. I have both Teaching and Business Experience and Skills: - I started teaching in 2009 and have been in a corporate environment for the last 3 years. - My teaching and business experience is extremely valuable for online English students as I have a range of skills suitable for beginner to advanced levels. My teaching experience: - Remedial Teaching: children aged 4 to 12 with a range of abilities. - Assisted Learning for children with Barriers to Learning. - Online English teaching to adults from China, Japan, Russia and Brazil - TEFL Certified My corporate experience: - Corporate Blogging - Creating written content, including infographics, for Social Media platforms. - Using copy to generate business leads - Editing - Project Management - Website back-end Management - Search Engine Optimisation - Creating and running Google Adwords Campaigns Lesson Notes & Reporting: - I take notes during class so that you can relax and focus on speaking. - I offer my students a report within 24 hours of each and every lesson which includes errors and corrections for vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. Weekend bookings available for your convenience. Let’s learn together!
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