Malapropisms and Bushisms add lustre to English | Sunday Observer

Malapropisms and Bushisms add lustre to English

A malapropism is a mistake caused by getting two words confused. It is named after Mrs Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy ‘The Rivals’ (1775). She made mistakes of this kind. Some of them are as follows:

“No comparisons, miss, if you please. Comparisons don’t become a young woman.

She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.

Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.

I own the soft impeachment.

He is the very pine-apple of politeness!

An aspersion upon my parts of speech! Was ever such a brute! Sure, if I reprehend anything in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue and a nice derangement of epitaphs!”


Sheridan’s Mrs Malaprop was not the first person to make such ludicrous misuse of words. Even William Shakespeare used them in “Much Ado about Nothing.” Here are two of them: Dogberry in the play says, “You are thought here to be the most senseless and fit man for the constable of the watch, therefore bear you the lantern. This is your charge: You shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince’s name.” In another place in the same play, Dogberry says, “Comparisons are adorous.”

William Shakespeare and Sheridan are credited with making so many other malapropisms. Some of them are as follows:

“He had to use a fire distinguisher.

My sister has extra-century perceptions.

She really gyrates on my nerves.

He was lapping up the tension.

I was so surprised you could have knocked me over with a fender.

He works in an incinerator where they burn the refuge.

He had to use biceps to deliver the baby.

He communicates to work.

My husband is a marvelous lover. He knows all my erroneous zones.

My sister uses massacre on her eyes.

He’s a wealthy typhoo.

No phonographic pictures allowed.

Don’t trust him. He’s a wolf in cheap clothing.”

Dan Quayle

Malapropisms are not the sole property of Sheridan’s Mrs Malaprop or Shakespeare. Even today we hear malapropisms from many other people who are not literary men. Dan Quayle, 44th Vice President of the United States said, “Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and a child.” Richard Daley, former Mayor of Chicago said, “The police are not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve disorder.” One day, Daley told a friend, “I attended Alcoholics Unanimous.” He is also reported to have ridden a “tantrum bicycle.” Bertie Ahern, an Irishman, warned his country against “upsetting the apple tart.” A “New Scientist” magazine employee called one of his colleagues “a suppository of knowledge.” Later he apologized for his “Miss Marple-ism.”

Today, people who wish to show off their English knowledge make all kinds of bloomers, bloopers and malapropisms. One day, an elderly man began to deliver his speech with the following words: “I think we need to let down to brass roots of the problem.” An economics lecturer began his speech with the words “The nutshell of it is …”

In the United States, malapropisms are known as “Bushisms.” George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States is well known for his Bushisms. Jacob Weinsberg collected them and published “The Bush Tragedy.” One day, Bush said, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people and neither do we.” Meeting Army General Ray Odierno, Bush said, “I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq.”

President Bush

President Bush seems to have outwitted Mrs Malaprop. While delivering a speech in Illinois he said, “It’s important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It’s not only life of babies, but it’s life of children living in, you know the dark dungeons of the internet.” During an online chat with CNN he said, “Well, I think if you say you’re going to do something and don’t do it, that’s trustworthiness.” When he was about to visit Denmark Bush said, “I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep on the soil of a friend.”

Sometimes, even newspapers publish malapropisms unwittingly, but they have a ready excuse. They say, “Journalism is literature in a hurry,” and get away. Recently, a local newspaper published an article with the following sentence: “Sometimes it is scary to try something new like donating blood. But wouldn’t it be worth if you knew you could be saving up to three olives with a single donation.” A foreign newspaper had the headline, “City sets mosquito flogging schedule.” Some classified advertisements are hilarious. Here is one such advertisement: “House for sale. Two bedrooms, vinyl siding, well insulted.”

While in India I walked into private dispensary. There was a sign that read, “Specialist in women and other diseases.” A hospital in London has this sign: “Visitors. Two to a Bed and Half-an-hour only.” A dentist in Istanbul displays a sign that reads, “American Dentist, 2th Floor – Teeth extracted by Latest Methodists.” A big tourist hotel in Belgrade has issued instructions to those who use the lift: “To move the cabin push button of wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press the number of wishing floor.” Perhaps the best bloomer was found on a Russian ship. It has given life-saving instructions: “Help saveringapparata in emergings behold many whistles. Associate the stringing apparata about the bosom and meet behind. Flee then to the indifferent life-saveringshippenobediencingthe instructs of the vessel chef.” If I happened to be on the ship, I would jump into the sea!

Even Mrs Malaprop will swoon if she sees the following notice on a lift in a Romanian hotel: “The lift is being fixed for the next days. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.”

There’s no doubt, Mrs Malaprop and President Bush have added lustre to English in their own way.

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