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Malapropisms and Dementia

This is a just short blog to document some of the latest effects of my deterioration.

Over the last few months, I've become prone to using malapropisms in my more relaxed and unguarded conversation, and I'm curious whether this is common amongst my peers.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a malapropism is the mistaken use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound.

"He is the very pine-apple of politeness."

Mrs Malaprop

The term "malapropism" comes from a character called Mrs Malaprop, from The Rivals, a 1775 five-act comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Mrs Malaprop did, in fact, use words incorrectly as a funny quirk of her character. As a result, her name became the default term for misusing a word. Her name, in turn, comes from the French mal à propos, or "inappropriate."

"I might just fade into Bolivian."

Mike Tyson, boxer

Sometimes, malapropisms are known as Dogberryisms after Constable Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. At one point, he says, "Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons." There are two malapropism examples in this line: He should have said "apprehended," not "comprehended," and "suspicious" rather than "auspicious."

And now I find that I am sometimes guilty of this sometimes hilarious quirk.

"I had to use a fire distinguisher."

I recently asked my wife Pam if she had read the constructions before trying to assemble an item we bought online.

I realised my mistake as soon as she smiled - we both fell about laughing.

"... she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile."

Mrs Malaprop

It is happening more and more lately. Not when I'm focused but when I'm relaxed. Particularly after a day packed with meetings.

"We seem to have unleased a hornet's nest."

Valerie Singleton

I also have trouble finishing words, and sometimes I lapse into repeating a particular syl-syl-syl-syllable while I struggle to get my mind back in the groove.

It's annoying but also very funny, as I am often aware of my failure but unable to do anything except to either continue the repetitive mantra in the hope of completing the word or to stop and leave the sentence incomplete.

I have witnessed the same behaviour among some of my peers, and I wonder how prevalent it is in people living with Alzheimer's disease.

Do YOU slip into the use of malapropisms? or do you have some examples of particularly funny or apt ones?

I'd be really keen to hear them.

Here are a few of the most well-known ones that I am aware of:

  • A prospectus is someone who searches for gold.

  • After a long air flight, it is reassuring to get your feet back onto terracotta.

  • I couldn't change his decision: it was a Fiat accompli.

  • I can assert the truth of it, without fear of contraception.

  • You can darken your eyelids with cascara.

  • If you swallow poison, you should take an anecdote.

  • I was prostate with grief.

  • She ate with a veracious appetite.

  • The garden was brightened by the red flowers of saliva.

  • A triangle with all its sides equal is called an equatorial triangle.

  • He was on the horns of an enema.

  • The doctor had told him he had very close veins.

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2 comentários

Barbara B Dunn
Barbara B Dunn
19 de mar. de 2023

Hi Pete,

'Malapropism.' I learn something new every day!

An example of a malapropism I heard...

Rainy weather can be hard on the sciences! (sinuses0

I remember my daughter, when she was very young, asked if we had any neutrons for the salad. (croutons)

Thank You for sharing, Pete. Hello to Pam.

Warmest Regards


Peter Middleton
Peter Middleton
19 de mar. de 2023
Respondendo a

HaHa! That's brilliant Barbara. Thanks for sharing.

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