Muddled Mrs Malaprop

Lapsus Linguae

A noun that refers to a “slip of the tongue”.  Malapropisms and spoonerisms are two examples.

This is another inspiring prompt from Queen Creative.

It will result in a number of short pieces from me.  I have the ideas and the enthusiasm – watch this space!


Malapropisms were made famous by the playwright Sheridan, who created the character Mrs Malaprop.  Her name was chosen to indicate her habit of using inappropriate words.  Mal – bad and aprop from appropriate.

I was fortunate in many ways growing up on the outskirts of London.  School trips to the capital city were possible and my mother also tried to take us there during some of our half-term holidays.

One school trip I remember was to the Haymarket Theatre where The Rivals was being played.  I remember the theatre as well as, if not better than, the play.  The décor was richly old-fashioned with heavy red brocade fabrics and golden cords with tassels.

Our seats were in the gods and the slope of the tiered seats was very steep.  I was aware of a slight feeling of vertigo as I made my way to my seat looking down towards the stage.  The uninterrupted view made me feel very high up indeed.

The play was acted in full Georgian costume.  We had read through it in our English lessons before the trip, but I have not looked at it since.  I remember Mrs Malaprop, of course.  The other character who stuck in my mind was Lydia Languish, who was portrayed as a good-for-nothing lotus eater.  Again her name was chosen to show her nature.  If Sheridan knew someone like her, it is quite possible that she was suffering from depression.  A young lady with plenty of money and no real responsibilities in life would not have been immune from mental illness.  In those days it would not have been recognised as an illness, but rather as a failing in a person’s character.

But I digress.  The topic is about mistakes in speech.  So what did Mrs Malaprop famously say?

Illiterate instead of obliterate, aversion instead of diversion (?)

It is safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion.

Pineapple instead of pinnacle, reprehend for comprehend, derangement of epitaphs for arrangement of epithets, allegory for alligator, which itself was misplaced to the Banks of the NileCaparison instead of comparison.  (Caparisons are horses’ trappings according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary).  I acknowledge the Penguin Dictionary of Quotations, which provided many snippets for me to analyse.

R.B. Sheridan was using Mrs Malaprop to amuse his audience.  The Rivals were two gentlemen, but I remember nothing about them or the plot.  Perhaps my fascination with words was stronger than my memory of the story-line.  I try not to fall into the same traps as Mrs Malaprop in my use of language, but I do look out for malapropisms in what I hear and read.

Thanks again to Queen Creative for another great prompt for the promptless.  I shall also be writing about other school trips and literary discoveries, which I recalled due to this prompt.