Daily Archives: August 29, 2011

I Resemble That Remark

My love of language began in college when I took a 200-Linguistics class for “fun.” By fun, I mean it wasn’t required for my degree (I tried to take one fun class per semester to take the stress out of coursework).

Root words from early languages, their stem and ending development, and the eventual evolution into modern languages of the world fascinated me. How cool are we to have learned to communicate with words!

My blog title is taken from a well-known malapropism. The origin of malapropism is the French mal á propos meaning ill-suited. Malapropisms are the unintentional and often hilarious slips caused by the incorrect use of a word, either by ignorance or by confusion over the similar sounding or spelling.  “I resemble that remark” as a rebuttal to a put-down is an old vaudeville joke that has been attributed to many early comics.

Richard Sheridan’s Restoration Comedy of 1775, The Rivals, featured a character in the play called Mrs. Malaprop. This form has a long history of use in comedy. Norm Crosby’s stand-up comedy routines used malapropisms as his schtick. The Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy used them in films. These people used malapropisms to purposely to get laughs.

“Listen to the blabbing brook.”  Norm Crosby

“…she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile.” Mrs. Malaprop

“He is the very pine-apple of politeness!” Mrs. Malaprop

“…promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.” Mrs. Malaprop

“Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.” Constable Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing: Act 3, Scene V (Michael Keaton in this film role was hysterical).

“In her elastic stockings, next to her very close veins.” Archie Bunker from the TV sitcom All in the Family

“Last will and tentacle…” Archie Bunker from the TV sitcom All in the Family

“That’s right, honey the sacred and the propane Carmine Lupertazzi Jr. from The Sopranos

Even funnier are the well-known people who do not speak that way intentionally. I’m including the great Yogi Berra, although I’m not convinced he didn’t know exactly what he was doing.

“It is beyond my apprehension.” Danny Ozark, baseball team manager

“Texas has a lot of electrical votes.” Yogi Berra, baseball legend

“This is unparalyzed in the state’s history.” Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House

“Marie Scott… has really plummeted to the top.” Alan Weeks

“The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.” Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor

“He was a man of great statue.” Thomas Menino, Boston mayor

“Well, that was a cliff-dweller.” Wes Westrum, about a close baseball game

“Be sure and put some of those neutrons on it.” Mike Smith, ordering a salad at a restaurant

“It’s great to be back on terracotta!” John Prescott, a British politician echoing Del Boy.

As genre fiction writers, we won’t have much occasion to use malapropisms. I still love the idea that we bend and manipulate language for many reasons. What’s not to like about the flexibility of words and their meanings? I hope you enjoyed this light take on writing.


Posted by on August 29, 2011 in writing


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