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A malaprop could be described as saying the wrong thing at just the right time. Malapropism is the act of using an incorrect word in place of one that is similar in pronunciation. The word malaprop (or malapropism) comes via Mrs. Malaprop, a character in the Richard Brinsley Sheridan comedy "The Rivals" (1775). Mrs. Malaprop habitually misused words. Ultimately the word came from the French mal à propos, meaning "inappropriate." Malapropism is also referred to as Dogberryism, named after Officer Dogberry in Shakespeare’s "Much Ado About Nothing" (1599). Mrs. Malaprop and Officer Dogberry made the same kind of speech error. Here's an example from each character.

Mrs. Malaprop said, "Illiterate him quite from your memory." (obliterate)

Officer Dogberry said, "Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons" (apprehended)

Children very often make this kind of error because of their limited frame of reference. Children have been overheard talking about songs they sang at "vocation Bible school" (vacation), songs such as "Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear" (cross I'll bear) and "Lead on, O Kinky Turtle." (O King Eternal)

Here are some malaprops, along with the appropriate word/s.

He's a wolf in cheap clothing. (sheep's)

It was a case of love at Versailles. (first sight)

He's got one of those sight-seeing dogs. (seeing-eye)

In Algiers, they spend most of their time at the cash bar. (casbah)

A fool and his money are some party. (soon parted) As you will see in the comments to this post, I accidentally did my own malaprop by originally saying that the correct wording was "soon partying." 🙂

For all intensive purposes he skipped the meeting. (for all intents and purposes)

All's fear in love and war. (fair)

To each his zone. (own)

Agreed, no more negotiating — it's a dumb deal. (done)

It's a long road to hold. (row to hoe)

All I want from you kids is a little piece of quiet. (peace and quiet)

Rainy weather can be hard on the sciences. (sinuses)

My sister has extra-century perception. (extrasensory)

Alice said she couldn't eat crabs or any other crushed Asians. (crustaceans)

You could have knocked me over with a fender. (feather)

Unfortunately, my affluence over my niece is very small. (influence)

A rolling stone gathers no moths. (moss)

The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city. (evacuate)

Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination. (figment)

Some viruses can lie doormat for years. (dormant)

Michelangelo painted the Sixteenth Chapel. (Sistine)

Everybody in the company has their own cuticle. (cubicle)

I remember because I have photogenic memory. (photographic)

Having one wife is called monotony. (monogamy)

Tom is the very pinochle of politeness. (pinnacle)

Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion. (illusion)


Do you have a favorite malaprop to add in the comments?


" " — Marcel Marceau (The quotation as given is accurate — Marcel Marceau was a mime. Mimes probably never do malaprops.)


Yogi Berra, a king of misspeak, is quoted as saying, "Texas has a lot of electrical votes." (electoral)

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15 Comments on “Malaprops”

  1. #1 John Wagner
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 7:36 am

    One time my mother got rather perturbed in an argument with another family member and she said, “Oh you’re just jumping to concussions!” And we have often quoted her since when needing to diffuse an intense discussion.

  2. #2 Steve Coon
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 8:17 am

    I was teased for years for coming home and telling my mom I was supposed to take a jar of pneumonia to school the next day.

  3. #3 Rob
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 8:21 am

    John and Steve, thanks for your malaprops! I’m still chuckling.

  4. #4 Nancy McGuire
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Isn’t the 5th one supposed to be: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomastuss101875.html

    A fool and his money are soon parted?

  5. #5 Nathan Majewski
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 8:39 am

    A fool and his money are some party. (soon partying)

    Not sure what to make of this one. I always thought it was “soon parted.” 😉

  6. #6 Cindy
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I like your malapropism. Did you find it? (A fool and his money are soon partying.)

  7. #7 Dan
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Dogberry’s example seems to have a second one. auspicious (suspicious). =)

  8. #8 Tony
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 9:05 am

    A little off-topic, but related to your quote: do you recall that Marcel Marceau had the only spoken line in Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie”?

  9. #9 Rob
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Nancy, Nathan, and Cindy, you three are too sharp! I inadvertently did my own malaprop, though apparently not original. Steven Wright’s saying must be stuck in my head. I will fix it in the post. That way, in case other readers spot that, it won’t cause too much consternation.

  10. #10 John Steel
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Once in Mexico with a Project Compassion team I was trying to tell some nationals that I was very tired and was going to bed, however, I said “casado” instead of “consado”. So after I said (in Spanish) “I was very married…” they burst out into laughter and fortunately I never finished my sentence!

  11. #11 Rob
    on Jun 17th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Tony, I never heard that … literally!

  12. #12 Judy Curry
    on Jun 18th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    “Hey, I represent them remarks!”
    Like this one, and use it often; rarely gets noticed.

  13. #13 Jessica
    on Jun 18th, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    From a former En100 student: “don’t take anything for granite.”

    At my last job I also often saw, “In lieu of so-and-so’s departure, we’ll have a going-away party.” Always made me wonder if the party would actually prevent the person from leaving.

  14. #14 Tony
    on Jun 18th, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    My sediments exactly!

  15. #15 Sharon
    on Jun 25th, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    When I was a kid in the mid 1970’s, we went to church every Wednesday night, and we were disappointed that we couldn’t watch Little House on the Prairie (there was no way to watch a missed TV show in those days). We got the name of the show mixed up with the name of the church service and called it, Little House on the Prayer Meeting.