(măl'ə-prŏp') n.


A malapropism:


1. Ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound.

2. An example of such misuse.


“She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile” and “He is the very pineapple of politeness” are two of the absurd pronouncements from Mrs. Malaprop that explain why her name became synonymous with ludicrous misuse of language. A character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775), Mrs. Malaprop consistently uses language malapropos, that is, inappropriately. The word malapropos comes from the French phrase mal à propos, made up of mal, “badly,” à, “to,” and propos, “purpose, subject,” and means “inappropriate.” The Rivals was a popular play, and Mrs. Malaprop became enshrined in a common noun, first in the form malaprop and later in malapropism, which is first recorded in 1849. Perhaps that is what Mrs. Malaprop feared when she said, “If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!”