Definition and Examples of Malapropism
Malapropism (also known as “malaprop” or “Dogberryism”) is a figure which consists when a speaker mistakenly says one word, that is inappropriate for the context, because the word actually sounds quite like the appropriate word.
Malapropisms usually consist in such scenarios where a speaker might want to say:
- ‘There’s something wrong with your eyes. I think you might consider seeing an optician.’ but only to end up saying, ‘I think you might consider seeing an optimist.’
Some malapropisms result from hearing the wrong word, others from a spelling error or even a typographical error.
The word “malapropism” (and its other variant “malaprop” ) was named after Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley SheridanOpens in new window's 1775 play, The RivalsOpens in new window, whose constant inappropriate use of words, such as “a progeny of learning,” gave rise to the expression “malapropism.” The variant term “Dogberryism”, as it is also known, is derived and coined from her name “Dogberry” on the basis she popularized Malapropism as a result of the influential character she exudes in the play.
Although malapropisms are incorrect words, the effect they bring, can be humoruous but it can be embarrassing when the error in word choice is mistakenly applied depending on the context in which they are misused. In the case of Mrs. Malaprop, she was trying to display mastery of a large vocabulary.