I have a “disease,”* used by playwrights (From Shakespeare to
Sheraton Sheridan) to crack a joke and illicit elicit a laugh, to politicians such as President Bush, Jr. who cracked unintentional jokes: Malapropism.
What is Malapropism?
Basically, Malapropism refers to when a person uses an inappropriate word for the word they really mean. It messes with communication and the message being sent in a normally humorous way. The term was
coin coined in 1775 by playwright Richard Sheraton Sheridan for his Play The Rivals. In this play one of the main characters, Mrs. Malaprop, would make proclamations such as: “…promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory” (Obliterate rather than illiterate). Malaprop is the English version of the french word: mal à propos, meaning inappropriate.
Classic Example: He had to use a fire distinguisher.
You Must be a Poor Idiot, you
Of course, the go to explanation for malapropism is one of ignorance – Like Mrs. Malaprop, an uneducated person who is wishing to sound educated uses words incorrectly in an attempt to pretend that they come from the educated class –
miss using misusing vocabulary. For many years, because of this play and also cultural reinforcement of this philosophy, people who have a pretendenity propensity for malapropism are labeled as unintelligent and, often poor (classism being what classism is). just look at former Pres. George W. Bush – indeed, his malapropism gained him all sorts of grief during his eight years of his presidency, and it was often cited as a sign of his lack of intelligence. Now, I wasn’t always happy with his particular decision-making capacities capabilities, but one’s intelligence does not necessarily hang in the balance of a well or misplaced malapropism (depending on the point of view, right? If you are going for the laugh, it is likely well placed).
Indeed, I truly felt bad for president Bush, although I disliked him politically, because of how much he was teased as a result of his malaprop propensity. According to several people, it is theorized that Bush, like myself, suffers from Dyslexia,
witch witch which explains his many speech problems!**
“We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.” – George W. Bush, Des Moines, IA, Aug. 21, 2000 [AUDIO].
(He, of course, was trying to say “hostage.”)
Dyslexia and Malapropism
People love a good malaprop, and why not … they’re funny. I get it, and I try to laugh at myself all the time, but that becomes harder and harder with every Malaprop because I often fear that people will deem me unintelligent. The problem is the social
stigmata stigma that comes with malapropism. But Malapropism, especially the kind I have, is often a side effect of Dyslexia, something that I did not know for many years. Actually, it’s only recently that I have tried to confront my dyslexia, as it has been mating making writing difficult, and I am now trying to learn how not to lash out at myself for all the mistakes I make – being a writer, this is a bitch. Not being able to see all the writing mestakes mistakes I make continuously, is what I like to call a “blocker” bitch!
“Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”
Dan Quayle, Vice President
To Write or To Say the Hell With It?
It is interesting, but people rarely pointed out my malapropism until I landed a job as a composition instructor, and I started to get some of my written work published. Until that point, much of my malapropism happened on stage while doing improvisation, and people liked it. They may have thought it was intentional and it got me a laugh. Now, it’s just a pain in the ass, and it makes me feel super
overcautious over conscious and wary of writing in public, without having the ability to edit obsessively for several hours before posting. Sadly, social media rather goes against this preferance preference, which is why many of my malapropisms find their way onto Facebook and Twitter. Last night’s malaprop came in the form of a Facebook post:
“My first homemade produce was a pain slave for, you know, the derby love I get on the track.”
A friend asked how she could “grow” the slave, teasing me for my word choice, and STILL I did not see or register her point/joke – I had to ask her what she meant. It was only after she pointed out my word choice mistake did I “see” it.
So, I guess the best thing to do is to keep educating others AND making fun of myself. It’s like have uneven
books boobs, or having to wear glasses, or whatever, if you don’t make fun of yourself first, the world will help you out.
NOTE: instead of editing my malaprops out of this post, I have left in the ones that came out while writing, and crossed the word through to demonstrate how often I actually do this, and how much editing I must do in order to catch myself.
Tooks Tools such as “define this word” are helpful, but of course you have to identify that the word might not be the right one for this technique to work well – LOL 🙂
*Malapropism is not a disease, but Dyslexia is a real learning disorder and a side effect of dyslexia.
**Recognizing dyslexia – I placed in italics the symptoms I exhibit
■ Use of UPPER-CASE exclusively or randomly.
■ Letters back to front.
■ Irregular size or awkward shape of writing, poor spacing.
Now that so many people use word-processors, examples of
handwriting may be hard to come by. But written work can still
show dyslexic characteristics even when word-processed or
■ Random or non-existent punctuation.
■ Missing letters or words.
■ Spelling errors: the same word spelt in different ways,
letters in the wrong order, phonic approximations, omission
of syllables, errors in suffixes.
■ Use of similar but wrong words – malapropisms.
■ Non-standard sentence structure, an impression of
inexperience in writing.
■ Misinterpretation of questions.
I have posted this before, but for those of you who may need this resource, here is A Dyslexia Took Box, A helpful PDF on how to deal with Dyslexia.