This often results in a nonsensical or humorous statement. In literature and comedy, writers sometimes deliberately use malapropisms to inject humor or add color into their work.
What is a malapropism?
The term “malapropism” is derived from the character of Mrs. Malaprop, who appeared in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals. In the play, Mrs. Malaprop commits several verbal blunders. For example, she describes another character as “the very pine-apple of politeness" (instead of “pinnacle”). Over the years, the term has come to signify a funny slip of the tongue.
Malapropisms in literatureIn William Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing, the chief of the citizens’ police (a character named Dogberry) often accidentally uses malapropisms while attempting to appear more intelligent.
Because the character of Dogberry became synonymous with verbal blunders, malapropisms are sometimes called “dogberries” or “dogberryisms.” One example can be seen in act III, scene V.
Malapropisms in pop cultureWhen politicians and other public figures use malapropisms, they sometimes become part of pop culture.
Malaphor vs malapropism
A malaphor is the unintentional mashing of two idioms or phrases that results in unusual or humorous statements. For example, the phrase “it’s not rocket surgery” blends together the phrases “it’s not rocket science” and “it’s not brain surgery.” The term “malaphor” is a portmanteau of the words “malapropism” and “aphorism.”
Whereas malapropism refers to the unintentional replacement of a word with a similar-sounding one, malaphor blends two phrases into one. In both cases, the speaker’s intended meaning is usually clear.
Malapropism vs spoonerism
With spoonerisms, the initial sounds of a word are substituted with those of the next word. Examples of spoonerisms include “ kinquering congs” instead of “conquering kings” and “belly jeans” instead of “jelly beans.”
Frequently asked questions about malapropism
What is the difference between a malapropism and a pun?
Malapropisms and puns are similar in that they both replace a word with a similar-sounding word. However, they differ in their nature and effect.
A malapropism is an unintentional language error that typically has a humorous result (e.g., mixing up “amphibious” and “ambidextrous”). Malapropisms are generally mistakes, but they can sometimes be used for comedic effect (e.g., when a writer intentionally creates a character who accidentally uses malapropisms).
On the other hand, a pun is a deliberate play on words. Puns usually exploit similar-sounding words and double meaning to generate laughs, show wit, or create irony.
In other words, a malapropism occurs by mistake and results in a nonsensical or funny statement that the speaker never intended, whereas a pun is intentional and is used for comedic or rhetorical purposes.
What is the difference between a malapropism and a spoonerism?
Malapropisms and spoonerisms are both forms of language errors, but they should not be confused.
A malapropism is a verbal mistake that involves similar-sounding words with different meanings, like “monogamous” and “monotonous.”
A spoonerism, on the other hand, accidentally mixes up the sounds of letters or syllables of different words (e.g., “chork pops” instead of “pork chops”).
In short, malapropisms involve the unintentional distortion of words with similar sounds, while spoonerisms involve the swapping of sounds or letters between words.