Thursday, October 1, 2009

Malaprops du jour

posted Tue, 31 Aug 2004

Thought you guys might appreciate these gems that I got from friends. These are terms used by actual people in actual businesses – people who make more money than any of us do.

It doesn’t pass mustard (pass muster)
Great assault (grain of salt)
Nip it in the butt (the bud)
All intensive purposes (all intents and purposes)

I welcome additions to this list.

This etymology of the word “malaprop”, from dictionary.com, is interesting. I remember reading the play in tenth grade.

[After Mrs. Malaprop, a character in The Rivals, a play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, from malapropos.]
Word History: “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!”

Speaking of people who make more money than we do even though they slaughter our native tongue, I have actually seen the word “irregardless” in an email from a senior exec.

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