Tuesday Terminology: Malapropism


There’s great humor in subtlety. A well placed, unassuming malapropism, for example, can make your writing seem quite witty without being obvious.

What is malapropism? Let’s do some hands-on learning. Here’s a recent example I came across:

I think that cheeseburger really curved his appetite.

The first thing I want to point out is that there was not the least bit of irony on the speaker’s part, and that’s important. A malapropism only happens when the person/character making the statement unintentionally uses an incorrect word or phrase that sounds similar to the correct one. In this example, the correct idiom is “curbed his appetite.”

The only real difference between a pun and a malapropism is intent. Puns are on purpose; malapropisms aren’t. Letting the audience “in” on the joke is the tricky part, which means that you have to let them know that the mistake was unintentional without muting the impact of the humor.

Here are some other fun malapropisms:

  • The ocean is infatuated with sharks.
  • That’s as oblivious as the nose on your face.
  • He can catch the football with either hand. He’s amphibious. [Real color commentary during a nationally broadcasted football game.]
  • In the South, you can expect the air to be hot with high humility.
  • For all intensive purposes, this post is finished.
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3 thoughts on “Tuesday Terminology: Malapropism

  1. Pingback: Muting the Moot Points « More Novel by the Week

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