"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.


  1. Oops - meant to thank GB for the word acyrologia which was new to me!

  2. You didn't have to thank me CJ. It must be a first: a word I knew that you didn't. But then it's probably something I'm more likely to do than you are. Oddly it's a word I have great difficulty saying. It came to mind because I wrote a comment on a post a few days ago using the word 'exalting' instead of 'exhorting'. It so upset me when I saw it that I had to delete the original post thus drawing even more attention to my booboo.

  3. Malapropisms i've heard of, as well as Spoonerism, but acyrologia is a new one to me. What's really fun is to listen to children -- they so innocently come up with the not-quite-right word that it can be quite hard not to laugh at the poor dears.

  4. I never heard of acyrologia either (and how on earth DOES one pronounce it). Malapropism I've heard of and probably understood in context, but not sure I could call it part of my active vocabulary...

  5. Example: Its good two sea ewe hear.