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Malaprops

A story by Beryl Bowden

Daughter Anne and myself spend part of each Sunday doing the Sunday Telegraph cryptic crossword. Most words we come across are familiar but others are completely foreign. Recently we struck a beauty. Malaprop! On consulting a reliable dictionary I found it meant; long words used in an inappropriate manner or words ludicrously misused. I had never heard the word but knew an elderly gentleman whose conversation during the war was all malapropisms. He also miss-pronounced words. For instance, Gallipoli was Gallipoli. He made an awful mess of` Czechoslovakia!!!

I have been guilty of the odd maloprop myself.

On one occasion I called into the local library and asked if they had Mary Tyler Moore’s latest novel. (Those of you old enough to know, will realise that Mary Tyler Moore was an American comedienne with her own T V Show in the 1970’s, not a modern author!) After a fruitless search, the two ladies on library duty and myself finally twigged that we should have been looking for a book by Mary Higgins Clark!

To top it off, recently I went to the local chemist shop and asked for a bottle of Luberol. The chemist and her off- siders looked blank. They had never heard of it.“ It is an old medication.“ I said. “Perhaps it has gone out of circulation. You might all be too young to have heard of it.” I described the preparation as a white creamy liquid in a medium sized bottle.

“I’ll look on the computer to see if we have any in stock.” Said one lass helpfully.

She had no luck.

A gentleman who had been listening said with a smile.  “I know there is an

Oil called Luberol but I think you would be more likely to buy it in a garage than a chemist shop!”

Something in the back of my mind stirred. “Not Luberol… Agarol, Agarol that’s the name! That’s what I want,” I cried. Oh yes! They had all heard of that -and a bottle was promptly produced.

I hurried away with my purchase, hoping I had no occasion to enter the shop again for some time.

My neighbour Alice lived two doors down from us. Our children were of a similar age and she and I were good friends. She often called in for a cup of tea when the children were at school. This day she had been to see an ear, nose and throat specialist in Newcastle. I asked. ”How did it go?” “Not too well”, was the glum reply. “I have porpoises up my nose.” After a little gentle prompting I discovered she did not have playful marine creatures frolicking about inside her proboscis but ‘polypus’!

How I kept a straight face, I will never know!

Shopping in Raymond Terrace, I met a woman I hadn’t seen for some time. It was unusual to see her without her husband in tow, so I asked after him and was told,  “Joe couldn’t come, he can hardly walk. He has been to the doctor and he has  ‘watery plants’ under his feet.” (Plantar warts).

Another friend loves to discuss medical matters. The trouble is that by mispronouncing the names of complaints and symptoms she gives the wrong impression of the state of people’s health. All our friends are in their eighties so most of our conversations concerning them are about their ailments. A relieved phone call regarding a mutual friend determined that he was suffering from anaemia and not the much more serious leukaemia she had quoted. Transfusions to her are infusions or confusions and the only similarity to the name of the drug warfarin, is that it begins with a ‘w’ and ends with an ‘n’. (The letters in between are any-one’s guess.)

A popular M. C {Master of Ceremonies) who announced the dances when we were young, put the aitches he dropped off some words onto the front of others. For instance; he would announce “Give ‘hem ‘hanother round ’horchestra please!” His particular form of speech became more pronounced after a few visits to the bottle of rum behind the piano. “’Hi think we’ll ‘ave ‘han ‘hold-time waltz “ he’d say expansively. Also, his nose became progressively redder as the night wore on.

These instances may not strictly be true malapropisms. I just find the word itself amusing. It doesn’t seem like a ‘proper’ word to me; more like something some-one made up in a hurry. However, when speaking about it to a friend, she not only knew the word but could quote its meaning. Another friend when approached on the subject, informed me that the word Malaprop arose from the quaint method of speech adopted by a Mrs Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan’s humorous play The Rivals, first performed in 1775. It has taken me a long time to catch up with it.

Having left school at fourteen and had no formal education since, provides me with an excuse for not knowing the word Malaprop. I wonder how many teacher’s college and university-trained souls are not familiar with it either?

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3 Comments on “Malaprops”

  1. Beryl Bowden February 17, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Hello Jill,
    Tony is only holidaying in Bali. They go a couple of times a year. Glad you like my stories.

  2. Jillian Lister February 15, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Hi Mrs Bowden,
    Yes, I know many people that use the odd “malaprop too”. It always makes me laugh to myself! Keep up with the stories! I love them. Hello to Tony in Sanur! Is he living there? We are currently in Jakarta but very shortly moving to Kuala Lumpur. Love Jillian
    Love to Anne. X

  3. Tony February 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Hi Mum, that’s really amusing…I think all of us either drop the odd ‘malaprop’ or know someone that does. It’s the ones that think they’re impressing you by using a really big (but incorrect) word that are the funniest!
    It’s a bit like the words to some songs…you’ll sing along for years using the words as you think they are, then eventually you’ll somehow find out that you’ve been singing the incorrect words all these years…a ‘musical malaprop’ perhaps?
    Tony (from Sanur,Bali).

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