Mental Floss

Weekend Word Wrap: malapropisms

David K. Israel

As promised, today's edition of the Weekend Word Wrap is on "malapropisms"—a word not to be confused with Bushisms.

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"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." "Oftentimes, we live in a processed world -- you know, people focus on the process and not results."

So what, then, is a malapropism? The word comes from one Mrs. Malaprop, who, in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play called, The Rivals, unintentionally confused words that sounded similar "“ getting big laughs from audiences during 1775. The English word, malapropos, or "out of place," which Sheridan was playing on, comes from the French mal à propos, or "ill to purpose." (Notice the root "apropos" hiding in there.)

One of Mrs. Malaprop's more famous screw-ups goes like this: ""He is the very pineapple of politeness."

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My favorite malapropism was heard years ago when I was stuck in a taxi during rush hour in midtown Manhattan. We were in stop-start traffic on Eighth Avenue and my driver turned to me and said, "If it's any constellation, Tenth Avenue isn't any better."

We'd love to hear some of your favorites, if you have 'em!

Check out all past Weekend Word Wraps>>