Malapropism in literature refers to the practice of misusing words by substituting words with similar sounding words that have different, often unconnected meanings, and thus creating a situation of confusion, misunderstanding and amusement.

Malapropism is used to convey that the speaker or character is flustered, bothered, unaware or confused and as a result cannot employ proper diction. A trick to using malapropism is to ensure that the two words (the original and the substitute) sound similar enough for the reader to catch onto the intended switch and find humor in the result.

In the play Much Ado About Nothing, noted playwright William Shakespeare’s character Dogberry says, “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.” Instead, what the character means to say is “”Our watch, sir, have indeed apprehended two suspicious persons.”

6 thoughts on “Malapropism”

  1. In the old radio/TV series “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” a character, The Kingfish, refers to suffering from “sophistication” when he means “asphyxiation.” Yogi Berra, the N.Y. Yankees catcher, said, “Texas has a lot of electrical votes,” when he meant to say “electoral.”

  2. I was recently diagnosed with Macular Degeneration so when I came home, I told my wife that I had Immaculate Disintegration… Technologically, that’d be a malapropism, right? And Power to Norm Crosby, of course… the Master.(I have a kind of fifth sense about these things, thanks to Norm.)

  3. Perfect example
    In the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” in the second verse it starts:

    “Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends.”

    Mercedes-Benz is not spelled correctly. It is spelled Mercedes Bends. The “bends” is the illness one may get from scuba diving too long without decompressing before surfacing. The bends hurts!

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