A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism or acyrologia) is the
substitution of a word for a word with a similar sound, in which the
resulting phrase makes no sense but often creates a comic effect.
It is not the same as an eggcorn, which is a similar substitution in
which the new phrase makes sense on some level.
Occasionally a phrase, rather than a single word, replaces the
original word, for example Stan Laurel said "What a terrible cat's
after me!" (i.e., catastrophe) in Any Old Port!
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The word malapropos is an adjective or adverb meaning
"inappropriate" or "inappropriately", derived from
the French phrase mal à propos (literally "ill-suited"). The earliest
English usage of the word cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is
Malaprop used in the linguistic sense was first used by
Lord Byron in 1814 according to the OED.
The terms malapropism and the earlier variant malaprop come
from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, and in
particular the character Mrs. Malaprop. Sheridan presumably
named his character Mrs. Malaprop, who frequently misspoke (to
great comic effect), in joking reference to the word malapropos.
Here are some of the original malapropisms from
the lady herself: Mrs. Malaprop in
Richard Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775).
In case you're not sure what it is that
Mrs. Malaprop is intending to say, the correct
word(s) are in square brackets after each
"...promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say,
quite from your memory."
"O, he will dissolve my mystery!"
"He is the very pine-apple of politeness!"
"I have since laid Sir Anthony's preposition before her;"
"Oh! it gives me the hydrostatics to such a degree."
"I hope you will represent her to the captain as an
object not altogether illegible."
"...she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is
"...she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the
"I am sorry to say, Sir Anthony, that my affluence over
my niece is very small."
"Why, murder's the matter! slaughter's the matter!
killing's the matter! - but he can tell you the
"Nay, no delusions to the past - Lydia is convinced;"
"I thought she had persisted from corresponding with
"His physiognomy is so grammatical!"
"I am sure I have done everything in my power since I
exploded the affair;"
"I am sorry to say, she seems resolved to decline every
particle that I enjoin her."
"...if ever you betray what you are entrusted with... you
forfeit my malevolence for ever..."
"Your being Sir Anthony's son, captain, would itself be a
"Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use
of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of
[apprehend, vernacular, arrangement, epithets]