Alright kids, the word of the day is “MALAPROPISM”. I’m sure many of you educated types have used this word since you were in Grade 1. Me? I just learned of it about 15 years ago when I was in Toastmasters.
According to WIKIPEDIA, “a malapropism (also called a Dogberryism or acyrologia) is the substitution of a word for a word with a similar sound, in which the resulting phrase makes no sense but often creates a comic effect”.
Let me give you several humorous examples of malapropisms I have heard.
The first happened in, of all places, a Toastmaster Meeting. One young woman was about to give a presentation, and she was being introduced to the audience. The person introducing her described her a being a very “voluptuous” person. I found a definition of voluptuous online – “sensuously pleasing or delightful: voluptuous beauty”. Now, as I recall, that may have been a suitable word for this particular young lady, but generally one doesn’t use this word in an introduction – especially in a Toastmaster meeting.
The audience went into hysterics leaving the introducer wondering what he had said that was so funny. The young lady, an apprenticing lawyer, took it all in stride (I think she liked it!).
Now, I believe the introducer meant to describe her as “vivacious”. And, indeed, this young lady could have suitably been described as being that as well. I’m just glad it wasn’t me who goofed. On the other hand, being single at the time, maybe the young lady would have been impressed and snatched me up. OK, enough dreaming!
Another time I heard a wonderful malapropism is when I was on a bus tour in Pennsylvania. I was the youngest person on the tour. Most of the persons aboard the bus were in their upper 70’s. We were cruising along – all of a sudden this dear old lady in our midst blurted out “Oh, look at the erotic driver”. I resisted the temptation to jump out of my seat to have a look at the subject of her wrath. Especially since I feared the driver might be male.
Since this particular driver was driving quite poorly, I believe he/she would have been more aptly described as being an “erratic” driver. Erotic? Possibly – but not likely. Erratic drivers are not as rare.
So, perhaps a new word for your vocabulary. Anyone else heard a great malapropism lately?