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kallah and arnie have inspired us to change the word-theme we'd planned for this week. We'll talk about terms for various humorous mis-uses or twistings of words: malaprop, spoonerism, mondegreen, paronomasia, and rotomontade. (We'd appreciate emails suggesting further words-of-the-day that fit this theme.)

Edit: As a transition, we smile to note that the first word, malaprop, also fits last week's theme of "words made from the names of people from literature".

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Tue Aug 20th, 2002 at 7:22.]
 
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malaprop - ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound. (MW?) /// 1834, from Mrs. Malaprop, character in Sheridan's play "The Rivals" (1775), noted for her ridiculous misuse of large words (i.e. "contagious countries" for "contiguous countries"), her name coined from malapropos (1668), a borrowing from Fr. mal à propos "badly for the purpose," from proposer "propose." (ety. online)

AHD gives fine examples (and indicates that the synonym malapropism derives form malaprop, and not vice versa). Excerpts:
quote:
"She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile" and "He is the very pineapple of politeness” are two of the absurd pronouncements from Mrs. Malaprop, [who] consistently uses language inappropriately. The Rivals [1775] was a popular play, and Mrs. Malaprop became enshrined in a common noun. Perhaps that is what Mrs. Malaprop feared when she said, "If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!"

See note below.
 
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malaprop, continued: a few qualifications and questions:
  • some dictionaries say (correctly, I think) that a "malaprop" must be an unintentional misuse of a word
  • In The Rivals, Mrs. Maloprop is particlarly funny because she comes to grief in her failed attempts to use fancy, "highfalutin'" speech. I'd think the key requirement of a malaprop (though not required by the dictionaries' definitions) is that it's not just an unintentional misuse, but rather one where speaker's attempted pretentiosness backfires on him or her: the very misuse punctures the attempt to seem erudite.
  • By the definition, "malaprop" requires misuse of an actual word. In the example below Ellen Goodman accuses George Bush of malaprop, where Bush has not stated the wrong word -- he has rather stated a word wrong. It seems that Ms. Goodman is mal apropos in her use of the word "malaprop". smile
quote:
[W]hen President Bush told CIA workers that the enemy not only "underestimated" America, they "misunderestimated the will and determination of the commander in chief, too," not a word was uttered. When he uttered his favorite malaprop three times in three sentences, not a titter was heard. -- Ellen Goodman Washington Post Writers Group 2001 (possibly mis-using the word?)
 
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Interestingly, in the Chicago Tribune's sports' page this morning, there was a discussion of malaprop. However, from your description, the author used the word incorrectly, I believe. What do you think, wordcrafter? Here it is:

"His malaprops have been replayed often on local sports talk stations. During a recent interview with former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, he didn't seem to realize fromer NFL commissioner and onetime McMahon nemesis Pete Rozelle was dead."

While it was obviously a stupid remark, it isn't a malaprop--unless the word is more generally used to describe gaffes.
 
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quote:
We'd appreciate emails suggesting further words-of-the-day that fit this theme.


You might give us an email address. wink

Edited by the wordcrafters: Oops! Use wordcraft2@hotmail.com
That's an account that all of us share, so you can reach us all at once.

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Tue Aug 20th, 2002 at 12:19.]
 
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spoonerism The transposition of usually initial sounds in a pair of words

from the name of the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), a kindly but nervous Anglican clergyman and educationalist, who was famous for such mistakes. Some examples, all committed by (or attributed to) dear Reverend Spooner:
quote:
Is the bean dizzy? ['dean busy']
The Lord is a shoving leopard. ['loving shepherd']
It is kisstomary to cuss the bride.
Let me sew you to your sheet.
We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish inside us.
When the boys come back from France, we'll have the hags flung out!
 
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A true story, as to spoonerisms:

A lady of my acquaintance, a Canadiene, was as a youngster a huge fan of ice hockey.

Nowadays, there is quite a market for sports collectible. A US man, nostalgic for the baseball idols of his youth, can easily find on-line sources on which he can buy baseball cards from the 1950's and 1960's.

But Canadienne wailed that she failed miserably in her effort to find a like site for hockey memorabilia. Moaned she, quite unconcious of her spoonerism,
quote:
Does anybody know some site where I can get a good hockey card on?

(Honest, a true story!)
 
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I don't know if anyone has heard of the late comedian Kenny Everett. One of the characters he played was a movie starlet being interviewed on a chat show. He would be dressed in drag with a blonde wig and ultra-short skirt showing a whole lot of leg. The overall effect was somewhat spoiled by his beard though...

Decribing her latest film, the starlet would usually say, "...And then all my clothes fell off! But it's done in the best possible taste!"

Her name? Cupid Stunt.
 
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Kids don’t just say the darndest things; they hear the darndest thing. Writing in 1954, Sylvia Wright (1917-81) recalled in that in her youth she had heard a folk song, The Bonny Earl of Murray, with the couplet: "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen." – but years later learned that in fact no harm had come to the lady. The actual lyrics, she found, were "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green." From this she coined:

mondegreen - A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or song lyric. For example, I led the pigeons to the flag for I pledge allegiance to the flag.

The Oxford English Dictionary does not include mondegreen, in its current edition, but plans to include it in the next edition.
 
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The author of Kissthisguy.com had a similar experience. In Jimi Hendrix' Purple Haze he heard , "...'scuse me while I kiss this guy." instead of the true lyric, "...'scuse me while I kiss the sky."

It's a great site, with pretty well all the mondegreens you could ask for!
 
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Mondegreens abound in music. Someone sings a song, and another doesn't quite hear what is being sung! One popular song that has been misheard is "Hotel California" by the Eagles. A couple of classics from this classic song:

Sung: What a nice surprise. Bring your alibis.
Heard: What a nice surprise, when you're out of ice. Also What a nice surprise
When your rabbit dies.


Sung: A lot of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friends
Heard: A lot of pretty, pretty boys that she calls Vance

Sung: On a dark desert highway,
Cool wind in my hair

Heard: On a dark desert highway,
Cool Whip in my hair
roll eyes

[This message was edited by Melody on Sat Aug 24th, 2002 at 10:14.]
 
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paronomasia – punning, or a pun.
Dates from 1577; the adjectival form is paronomastic or paronomastical

So says MW – but Glossary of Linguistic Terms distinguishes, and states that paronomasia is one of three separate types of puns:
  • Paronomasia is the use of words that sound similar to other words, but have different meanings. (Casting my perils before swains) (The end of the plain plane, explained)
  • An antanaclasis is a pun in which a word is repeated with a different meaning each time. (Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.)
  • A syllepsis is use of a single word so that it ties to two (or more) other words the sentence, but has a different meaning for each of them. (There is a certain type of woman who'd rather press grapes than clothes.)
So today you get three words for the price of one!
 
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AHD lists zeugma as an alternate term meaning syllepsis, and gives this example:

He took my advice and my wallet.
 
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So, the thread about "Can't carry a tune in a bucket" is a thread about syllepsis! (Ummmm...what's the plural? syllepsis's, syllepsiss, syllepsises?) confused
 
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Wordcrafter said,

"A syllepsis is use of a single word so that it ties to two (or more) other words the sentence, but has a different meaning for each of them. (There is a certain type of woman who'd rather press grapes than clothes.)"

and

Melody said,

"Ummmm...what's the plural? syllepsis's, syllepsiss, syllepsises?"

The plural is "syllepses" (dictionary.com)

I read the AHD definition of sylepsis (dictionary.com) and the example it gave:

He lost his coat and his temper.

I didn't really see how that example was a "syllepsis", though, until I read the definition at Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (also at dictionary.com):

"(Rhet.) A figure of speech by which a word is used in a literal and metaphorical sense at the same time."

Then I understood it. He literally lost his coat and metaphorically lost his temper. But in your example, "press grapes" and "press clothes" are both literal, so I don't think that's a syllepsis. Of course, I could be wrong.

The OED says,

"...or applying to them in different senses (e.g. literal and metaphorical)."

By saying "e.g. literal and metaphorical" it implies there other ways to form a syllepsis.

Another site (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Figures/S/syllepsis.htm) says,

"When a single word that governs or modifies two or more others must be understood differently with respect to each of those words. A combination of grammatical parallelism and semantic incongruity, often with a witty or comical effect. Not to be confused with zeugma.
...In the rhetorical sense, syllepsis has more to do with applying the same single word to the others it governs in distinct senses (e.g., literal and metaphorical); thus, 'His boat and his dreams sank.'"

It then gave the following examples:

"Rend your heart, and not your garments." Joel 2:13

"You held your breath and the door for me."
—Alanis Morissette

Note that in each case the first sense of the verb is metaphorical and the second is literal.

This site says, "zeugma" is sometimes used as a synonym for "syllepsis" (the OED does) but that really a syllepsis is a specific type of zeugma.

It gets confusing. confused

By the way, "zeugma" is from the Greek and I believe the plural would be "zeugmata" or "zeugmas".

Tinman
 
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rodomontade or rhodomontade- 1 : a bragging speech 2 : vain boasting or bluster.
from Italian Rodomonte, character in Orlando Innamorato by Matteo M. Boiardo Date: 1612 (MW)
[Admittedly not a perfect fit in this weeks theme]
quote:
For this lover of great literature understood not one sentence out of twelve, and his favourite part was that of which he understood the least - the inimitable, mouth-filling rodomontade of the ghost in HAMLET. … What took him was a richness in the speech; he loved the exotic, the unexpected word; the moving cadence of a phrase; a vague sense of emotion (about nothing) in the very letters of the alphabet: the romance of language.
--Across the Plains by Robert Louis Stevenson
 
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Tinman, my head is spinning with the conflicting definitions of syllepsis and zeugma. Before I try to sort them out in my mind, let me lob in a few more examples, taken from the song Have Some Madiera m'Dear by Flanders and Swann.
quote:
He had slyly enveigled her up to his flat
To view his collection of stamps
And he said as he hastened to put out the cat,
The wine, his cigar and the lamps:

"Have some Madeira, m'Dear!

She lowered her standards by raising her glass,
Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.

 
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Hic et ubique said,
"...my head is spinning with the conflicting definitions of syllepsis and zeugma."

Join the crowd!

put out the cat, The wine, his cigar and the lamps

I would say this was a syllepsis, since he literally, physically put the cat outside and put the wine on the table, while he metaphorically put out his cigar (snuffed it out) and the lamps (turned them off).

raising her glass, Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.

This would also qualify, since she literally raised her glasses and eyes, and metaphorically raised her courage and hopes.

I especially like the last one, since the literal and metaphorical were alternated: glass, courage, eyes, hopes. It gives a nice lilt to it.

Thanks for bringing this poem to my attention. I've just read the rest of it. It's well-written and easy to read. One part read, Up her mind, and a dash for the door., and it didn't sound right to me. Then I reread it and realized it was another syllepsis: she made no reply,
Up her mind, and a dash for the door.
, the verb made being applied literally to Up her mind and a dash for the door and metaphorically to her mind. Nice poem.

Tinman smile
 
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Good thing Flanders and Swann said "...made... a dash for the door"! If they'd said "made a bolt for the door" we wouldn't know if she ran away or happened to be a locksmith. big grin
 
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I heard a good malaprop today--definitely the speaker was putting on airs when she said to me: "I have very specific metabolistic needs". Sure sounds good--but it should have been metabolic.
 
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That would drive me meta-ballistic.
 
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From today's TV Guide

9:00 A Mind To Kill
Bain has his toughest case to date when the parents of a girl who died after a routine procedure kidnap the surgeon they hold responsible for her death. Can he diffuse the situation before it's too late ?

So he wants to spread it out, does he ?

Habent Abdenda Omnes Praeter Me ac Simiam Meam
 
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They've slain the Earl of Moray ...

... and ....

Lady Monnie's back.

..... or ...... Lady Minnie's bed.
 
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reviving a thread...
I just love mondegreens, spoonerisms and malaprops, though I confuse them sometimes. Today I met an classmate from elementary school (if you can believe it!). She is very sweet, but I got a kick out of her tell me about her mother's "immaculate" degeneration (i.e., macular degeneration). At first I thought I had just misheard her, but she mentioned it several times after that. Big Grin I felt a little guilty not telling her what it really is, and yet I didn't want to embarrass her so I didn't say anything. Should I have, do you think?
 
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Language Log has a cool post today on malaprops, eggcorns, and related phenomena.
 
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