I love malaprops – both the bookstore in Asheville and the backward sayings.547916_10152710346440162_1980967334_n

As to the bookstore, I’ll be doing a public reading (a performance of one of my plays) there on Sunday, along with the other students in my writing class. I’m both thrilled and nervous; Malaprop’s is an iconic store in a city of writers.

In checking out their website, I found something else that’s fun. The owner and founder is Hungarian! She wrote:

182586_10152786738870162_729579649_n“My love of books came naturally; it is an inheritance from my grandmother, who always told us that ‘our only wealth was what we had in our heads, what we learned, because all else can be taken away.’  As a Hungarian, she knew this well, having lived through two World Wars, a revolution, and communist rule. I still hear her words and they are my guide in everything I do.”

Thirty years ago, she chose the name malaprop from a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play The Rivals  (1775). Mrs. Malaprop consistently used language malapropos (mal being French for bad and apropos being appropriate). Her name became synonymous with a ludicrous misuse of language, especially when it comes to similar-sounding words.

Some examples of malapropisms:

  • She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile. (alligator)
  • He is the very pineapple of politeness. (pinnacle)
  • Illiterate him quite from your memory. (obliterate)
  • Rainy weather can be hard on the sciences. (sinuses)
  • A rolling stone gathers no moths. (moss)
  • Good punctuation means not to be late. (punctuality)
  • The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city. (evacuate)
  • Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination. (figment)

My appreciation for convoluted sayings undoubtedly has to do with my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. I grew up on a diet of phrases from my grandmother such as: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get” and “Throw Papa from the train his hat.”

Baseball legend Yogi Berra, one of my favorite people to quote, was the king of mixing up his words.

  • A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
  • Baseball is 90% mental and the other half physical.
  • Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
  • Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.
  • If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • You can observe a lot just by watching.

I just hope I don’t get tongue-tied in my performance this weekend and come up with my own malapropisms.


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