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Malapropisms

In his 1775 Restoration comedy, The Rivals, Richard Sheridan introduced a humorous character by the name of Mrs. Malaprop. The name is derived from the French mal propos, which means inappropriate (we also have the word malapropos in English), and describes the manner in which she used many words in her speech. See some
Mrs. Malaprop quotations here.

The self-educated Mrs. Malaprop was always substituting a similar-sounding word for the word that she actually intended, often with the consequence of a hilariously nonsensical sentence. The name Malaprop has been immortalised in the form of the malapropism, any sentence in which one word has been used incorrectly in place of another. Malapropism examples.

These slips are sometimes divided into two broad classes: classical malapropisms, in which the mistakes are due to ignorance (as in the case of Mrs. Malaprop), and temporary slips of the tongue, in which the intended word is known by the speaker, but has been inadvertently replaced by another.

Here are a few malapropisms that have been gathered from around the Internet:

  • Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moths.
  • Let's get down to brass roots.
  • Their father was some kind of civil serpent.
  • You can lead a horse to manure but you can't make him drink.
  • The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city.

Go to our Malapropism collections; two lists:
Malapropriate quotations from Richard Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop. Malapropriate quotations from celebrities, politicians, and sports stars.

Closely related to the malapropism is the mondegreen. These are misheard sayings or phrases; the word is most usually applied to song lyrics. Be sure to visit our hilarious collection of misheard song lyrics - mondegreens.

More on Malapropisms & Mondegreens

There is an entire section of our online wordplay bookshop devoted to malapropisms and mondegreens. See also our collections of funny malapropisms from famous people, and from Mrs. Malaprop. And don't miss the misheard lyrics section, a world of mondegreens!

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