"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Acyrologias and malapropisms

Acyrologia (noun; plural acyrologias)

An acyrologia is an inexact, inappropriate or improper use of a word.  It can be applied to the inexact use of words in place of ones with a similar sound, more usually thought of as a malapropism after Mrs Malaprop, a character in the Sheridan play 'The Rifles' or should that be 'The Rivals'.  

A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance. An example is Yogi Berra's statement: "Texas has a lot of electrical votes," rather than "electoral votes".  The word malapropism comes ultimately from the French mal à propos meaning "inappropriate" via "Mrs. Malaprop", a character in the Richard Brinsley Sheridan comedy 'The Rivals' (1775) who habitually misused her words. Dogberryism comes from "Officer Dogberry", the name of a character in the William Shakespeare play 'Much Ado About Nothing'. These are the two best-known fictional characters who made this kind of error — there are many other examples.   Malapropisms also occur as errors in natural speech.  Malapropisms are often the subject of media attention, especially when made by politicians or other prominent individuals.