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 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.]
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:
See note below.
malaprop, continued: a few qualifications and questions:
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.
You might give us an email address.
Edited by the wordcrafters: Oops! Use email@example.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.]
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:
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,
(Honest, a true story!)
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.
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.
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!
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
[This message was edited by Melody on Sat Aug 24th, 2002 at 10:14.]
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:
AHD lists zeugma as an alternate term meaning syllepsis, and gives this example:
He took my advice and my wallet.
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?)
"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.)"
"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."
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.
By the way, "zeugma" is from the Greek and I believe the plural would be "zeugmata" or "zeugmas".
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
That would drive me meta-ballistic.
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
They've slain the Earl of Moray ...
... and ....
Lady Monnie's back.
..... or ...... Lady Minnie's bed.
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. 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?
Language Log has a cool post today on malaprops, eggcorns, and related phenomena.