I Resemble That Remark

29 Aug

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


Tags: , , , ,

23 responses to “I Resemble That Remark

  1. Liz Fredericks

    August 29, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    This is great, Janis. I keep learning so much from you – suspect I should have taken a linguistics class or two.

    • Janis McCurry

      August 29, 2011 at 9:32 AM

      I often thought it would be fun to further my education in linguistics. Alas, life intervened and I went another direction.

  2. Steph

    August 29, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    What a great way to start the day. Very funny. I agree with you that Yogi Berra knew exactly what he was doing. It was one of his great talents.

    • Janis McCurry

      August 29, 2011 at 9:33 AM

      Thanks, Steph. There were so many examples to choose from. Instead of “Kids say the darndest things,” it could be “People…” 🙂

  3. ValRoberts

    August 29, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Loved this post, Janis.

    These days we can blame our malapropisms on spell check. I once had an article quoted in a national college magazine, where the word memnonic (memory aid) was changed to pneumatic (moved or worked by gas pressure), which still makes me chuckle–and made me remember it for twenty-mumble years.

    The spell-check in the WordPress reply box doesn’t recognize memnonic, either.

    Or better yet, the newfangled autocorrect in smart phone/IM texting functions is responsible for our word-choice oopsies:

    • Janis McCurry

      August 29, 2011 at 10:59 AM

      “Your” malapropism is hilarious. Maybe I could remember things better if my brain worked by gas pressure! Thanks for the grin, Val.

  4. Meredith Conner

    August 29, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Always love your blogs Janis! I love language and the humor – intentional or not – in it!

  5. Peggy Staggs

    August 29, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I love all the new things you bring to us. Thanks for the giggle.

    • Janis McCurry

      August 29, 2011 at 3:39 PM

      I like the research into the pieces. Fascinating.

  6. Jacquie Rogers

    August 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    What a fun blog, Janis! There’s just something about malapropisms, maybe the element of surprise, that make me laugh every time. Kids are great at them, too, when their vocabulary graduates out of the toddler stage and they’re trying new words. Thanks for my laugh of the day.

  7. Janis McCurry

    August 29, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Oh my gosh, kids are the best…before we start drumming the dickens out of them. Hmm, have to look up origin of “dickens.”

  8. Mary Vine

    August 29, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    Thanks for taking us back to class, Janis! Fun read.

    • Janis

      August 29, 2011 at 5:22 PM

      My pleasure.

  9. Carley Ash

    August 29, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Fun read, Janis.

  10. Janis

    August 29, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Thanks, Carley.

  11. lynn mapp

    August 29, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Mmmmm. It makes you think. Loved it!

  12. Rozanne Cadotte

    August 29, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    Ahhh, then I had to look up “dickens”, too! “Drum the dickens out of him” was to beat the devil out of him, possibly from the “devilkins”, also! Interesting!

  13. Janis McCurry

    August 30, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    Rozanne, thanks for looking it up. Devilkins. Kind of cute considering what it means!

  14. Clarissa Southwick

    September 1, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    This reminds me of Ricky Ricardo in I Love Lucy. It’s always fun to add a foreign character so you can play with words. Thanks for some great one-liners 🙂

  15. V.E.G.

    May 12, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Norm Crosby is half Hebrew.

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    August 30, 2017 at 4:36 AM

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