Before deciding what topic to choose for my blog post, I reviewed a list of literary devices, where I stumbled on the word malapropisms. I was immediately intrigued.
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, a malapropism is “the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase… the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context.”
A little research uncovered incidents throughout history, where people used malapropisms unintentionally (or intentionally) in fine literature including the character Dogberry in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and The Merchant of Venice (also by Shakespeare).
Malapropisms aren’t limited to literature. Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) used malapropisms extensively as did comedian Ronnie Barker. The use of malapropisms is what in part makes comedians so funny. I was tickled to find Mary Tyler Moore used them on several occasions when she portrayed Laura Petry on the Dick Van Dyke Show back in the sixties.
But where did the word actually come from? Richard Sheridan’s play, THE RIVALS is littered with the misuse or distortion of words and phrases, although I am sure Sheridan used them intentionally to create humor.
One particularly delightful character in the play, Mrs. Malaprop, frequently uses the wrong word when trying to make her point. Soon after, someone coined the word malapropisms.
This discovery of course, made me smile, as it illicited a memory of a dear friend I had growing up. A dinner table debate caused my friend, who resented one remark in particular, to blurt out, “I resemble that remark,” which only gave further cause for everyone at the table to laugh. When he realized his blunder, he chuckled along with the rest of us. Forever after, it was a joke between us.
Youngsters seem to have a handle on malapropisms without even realizing they do. They can make you laugh until you cry without even trying.
My youngest easily has the market cornered on malapropisms. She is forever coming up with them. My favorite malapropism came from her as we walked through the home and garden section at the local home Improvement store.
With great excitement she shouted, “Mom, Look at all the miracles!”
Yes, she really is my blessing, my marigold!
For details about malapropisms check out this website: https://literarydevices.net/malapropism/.
If you fancy learning more about Mrs. Malaprop check out this post by Wad Bradford on ThoughtCo https://www.thoughtco.com/mrs-malaprop-and-origin-of-malapropisms-3973512