Malapropism is a figure of speech in which a word is used incorrectly in place of a word that sounds similar but has a different meaning. It is often used for humorous effect, as the resulting phrase or sentence can be nonsensical or absurd. The term “malapropism” comes from the character Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play The Rivals, who frequently used incorrect words to humorous effect. Malapropisms can be intentional or unintentional, and they can occur in both spoken and written language.
Examples of malapropism:
“I can’t believe they fired me. I was their number one instigator.” – The intended meaning is “employee,” a person who works for a company. The incorrect word “instigator” creates a humorous image of a person who causes trouble and unrest at work.
“I’m not a vegetarian, I’m a humanitarian.” – This malapropism from Bill Hicks is a play on the similar-sounding words “vegetarian” and “humanitarian.”
“I don’t want to be a laughing stalk.” – This malapropism mixes up the words “laughingstock” and “stalk,” creating a humorous image of a person who is only good for making people laugh.
“It’s déjà vu all over again.” – This intentional malapropism from Yogi Berra is a play on the French phrase “déjà vu” and the English word “again.”
“I’m not very good at geography. I can’t even find the United States on a map of America.” – This malapropism mixes up the words “United States” and “North America,” creating a humorous image of a person who thinks the United States is the only country in North America.