Take Five: Hello, Mrs. Malaprop, Wherever You Are

April 06, 2012|By Gene Pepper

Writers love words just like chefs love food.  We spend hours tinkering with verbs, nouns and adjectives within all types of techniques and combinations to keep the eyes of our readers glued to the copy we create.

We infuse our writing with clever, pungent (for the chefs) and meaningful words and sometimes toss in a curve ball just to keep it interesting.

So here’s a bit of whimsy, a flight of fanciful fun and some malapropisms that could throw a word-man out of sync.


Mrs. Malaprop, herself, a character from a 1775 Sheridan novel, might have said, “Lead the way, and we’ll precede.”

Here’s an interesting phrase, “Include me out,” uttered by the famous Hollywood producer, Samuel Goldwyn, who knew how to make great movies (“The Best Years of Our Lives”) but couldn’t put a meaningful sentence together.  I use it all the time when I’m asked to go someplace not appealing to me.

“An oral contract is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” is another favorite as well. Less usage by me, however.

Then there is Yogi Berra, just turned 87 years old.  He, of baseball fame, is a spokesman (a malaprop if there ever was one) for AFLAC Insurance Company.

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…perhaps Yogi was speaking of a baseball game, but it’s applicable to life. This phrase is clear enough even if his syntax is wrong, so who cares? Never give up, he is telling us, and any language will do.

As to his comment on a popular New York restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” Yes, we get that too.

All of us in our daily discoveries use idioms in our conversations.  We may not be conversant in the King’s English but what fun we can have.  The French, who are quite protective of their language, have a Society of …. whatever French people call the group that watches over American word translations. These noble patriots finally threw up their collective hands, gave in and called “it”— Le Hot Dog.

The Chicago mayor, during the infamous 1968 Democratic Convention in his city, announced, “The police are not here to create disorder. They’re here to preserve disorder.” Well intended or not, Richard Daley got what he said—chaos—created by his handling of the Chicago Seven, who rebelled against the leadership of the city. 

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