Anyone remember seeing George Burns and Grace Allen together on screen?  Burns & AllenGracie was a master of the malapropism: The misuse of a word in a sentence. 

It’s not an easy task to exchange the right word for one that sounds the same but has a totally different meaning.  HELP WANETDOstvarenje snova | MalapropismThe result can be hilarious in most cases, painful in the rest, and Ms. Allen did it with the effortless flick of her tongue and slow, easy bat of her eyes.

The word, malapropism, comes from the play “The Rivals” by Richard Sheridan in 1775. The character Mrs. Malaprop tried to present herself as cultured and refined.  She used sophisticated words that she obviously didn’t understand.  As a result, Sheridan coined the word from “mal a propos”: French for inappropriate. 

Examples from the play:

“Promise to forget this fellow–to illiterate him, I say . . .”

“He is the very pineapple of politeness.”
Mr Pineapple, Tourist in Buenos Aires.
“She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”

And more from elsewhere:

God asked Abraham to sacrifice Issac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Issac, stole his brother’s birthmark (birthright).

One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, gave refuse (refuge) to the Israelites.

Moses went up on Mount Cyanide (Sinai) to get the ten commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. 

 Solomon, one of David’s sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines (concubines).”


A sentance composed around the appropriate (err, inappropriate?) malapropism can be an entertaining exercise.Don't Exercise Too Hard!

Try it sometime.  And rent some Burns and Allen while your at it.

~ by rfgainey on May 23, 2008.

3 Responses to “Malapropisms”

  1. Gracie was the best. And I liked George, too. Someone asked the secret of his long life and he said, “Everyone has to have an act, and mine is George Burns.”

    Mine is Tommy Bibey.

    Dr. B

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dr. B…Loved the quotation from Mr.B.

  3. Thank you for the remembrence of these great artists. Many weekly gatherings around the televison laughing at the two served great purpose in my life…. Humanitarians at work bringing laughter in the world.

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