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Malapropism

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Malapropism

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Malapropism is the use of an incorrect word that is similar in sound to the intended word (often with humorous effect).

Example

You did that on porpoise! (vs. purpose)

I am prostate with grief. (vs. prostrate)

What are you incinerating? (vs. insinuating)

With all that money, he must be quite effluent. (vs. affluent)

Discussion

Mrs. Malaprop is a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s (1751-1816) play 'The Rivals'. She regularly makes mistakes in the use of words, often with the intent of appearing clever but actually resulting in the opposite effect. A malapropism hence may be a longer or more uncommon word rather than something that is relatively simple and common.

Malapropism can be seen as evidence of ignorance (which it may be), but deliberate error in speech can be used for specific effect. It is typically funny in some way, and may be used to distract a listener whilst important other detail is slipped through.

A neural cause of Malapropism occurs where memory access is based on sound-alike and a mental error occurs when we try to recall the right word.

Another use in changing minds is to lull the other person into a false sense of security by appearing unintelligent so they drop their guard and perhaps igve away important information or do not analyze your other words for persuasive content.

The word 'malaprop' actually comes from the French 'mal propos', meaning ‘inappropriate’.

Malapropism is also known as Dogberryism (after Constable Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing) or Acyrologia.

Classification: Grammar, Humor, Distortion

See also

Unclear language, Spoonerism

 

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