In Podcast Episode #53, I talk about malapropisms. This term comes from Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals. Another character says of her that she uses “words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced.”
We have seen this with comedians, such as Norm Crosby. I used to show a Red Lobster commercial to my Intro to Theatre class with him using a variety of these misused words.
Of course, you hear them in real life. Some are innocuous (“so to say” instead of “so to speak” fits this category), but sometimes, when a friend struggling for a word says, “how do I want to say this,” and then pops out a malapropism, you have to snicker. (A friend of mine who stopped speaking to me after 30 years did this frequently. I guess “how to say it” meant: stop.)
This episode tells the tale of some of the real life malapropisms that I collected over the years and which I presented while teaching about English Restoration Theatre.
I also dip into a mention of changing my presentation of the Restoration Theatre lecture material over the years. When I began teaching, I would explain quite frankly what William Wycherly’s play The Country Wife was about: a man named Horner returns from France and tells Dr. Quack (the period was known for its allegorical names) to spread the rumor that he is impotent. He does this so men will invite him to entertain their wives and then he can seduce them practically under their husbands’ noses. But over the years, students became sensitive to such descriptions, and I had to soften the explanations so much, they did not truly represent the plays. But of course, it kept me from receiving complaints about my language in class. *Insert heavy sigh here*
Note that this episode continues my experiment with unscripted audio. I would love to know what you think of this, because it is, after all, the elephant in the closet.
Listen to the episode for that particular example and other malapropisms here.