I’ve long enjoyed malapropisms and the little twist of surprise that comes with hearing one. So what are they? From the Oxford dictionary:
the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, “dance a flamingo” (instead of flamenco) synonyms: wrong word, solecism, misuse, misapplication, infelicity, Freudian slip, blunder, slip of the tongue, eggcorn. Origin mid 19th century; from the name of the character Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan’s play The Rivals (1775) + -ism.
This week, while showering at the gym, I heard a good one: “We got some of those reindeer cherries”, referring to Rainier cherries, which are in season now. Now we have an explanation of Rudolph’s nose!
A long time favorite at my house is vinegar center, first uttered on approach to a national park’s visitor center. Its now the accepted term on road trips and its easy to forget that this is not common parlance.
Kids and medical terms are also great sources. A teacher friend recalls a student request: “Ms. S, can I go to the restroom? I need to unerate“. Whether this is truly a malaprop given that unerate is not a real word can be argued. I include it as its so funny, and I can only imagine the difficulty of not laughing so hard that one unerated themself upon hearing it.
One of my favorites from the medical realm of is fireballs of the eucharist. This is actually a double malaprop with fireballs for fibroids and eucharist for uterus. In many ways, the languages of both medicine and religious rites are more complex and removed from daily speech, so that the two would crossover is not surprising. This was a favorite during my medical training, and it has brought a smile to my face for many years.
Another household favorite, uttered by a long-ago friend, famous for her creative usages: “These prices are exuberant!” Exorbitant was the intended term, and yet at times, exuberant seems to fit.
These are a few examples of a vast number. I catch myself uttering them frequently, particularly if I’m tired or putting together my thoughts as I speak. If you’ve got some favorites, feel free to post them in the comments, and I’ll share them (and credit you) in a future edition.