Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Malapropism

A malapropism (from French mal propos, "ill to purpose") is an incorrect usage of a word, usually with comic effect. The term comes from the name of Mrs Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy, The Rivals (1775), whose name was in turn derived from the existing English word malapropos, meaning 'inappropriately'. Here are some examples from her dialogue:

"He's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile." (i.e., alligator)

"He is the very pineapple of politeness". (i.e., pinnacle)

"If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!" (i.e., apprehend; vernacular; arrangement; epithets)

A malapropism found in a student paper reads:

"Many people are morally opposed to intravenous fertilization." (i.e. in vitro)

Common malapropisms in modern English include use of:

See also: