MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday May 21st. Hello! This is The world and all in it WORLD radio supported by the listener. I am Mary Reichard.
HOST NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher.
It’s time for our regular request for pre-rolls! Our reserve is a little low. So if you’ve ever wanted to hear your own voice present the program, now is your chance.
Go to worldandeverything.org and click on “The world and everything in it” in the top menu. Once you are there, click on “Record a pre-roll”. This will tell you everything you need to know.
REICHARD: Well, while you’re recording your pre-roll, you might find yourself a little tied. It happens to us all the time! Our word expert, George Grant, might not be able to explain why our tongues trip us up so often. But at least he can give the problem a name.
Here’s this month’s pun.
GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: It can happen to the best of us. When our minds are confused, our languages ââcan become confused. When our thoughts are shaken, our words can get tangled. When we are stressed or feel under duress, in a private conversation or public declamation, we might just stammer or mutilate our grammar. It happened to me. I’m sure this has happened to you, even if it’s only a rare occasion or two.
The great baseball player Yogi Berra is perhaps more famous for his habit of tripping over meaning and syntax than his Hall of Fame career at Yankee Stadium. The countless yogi-isms attributed to it are classic: âWhen you come to a crossroads, take it. “You can observe a lot just by looking.” “It’s like dÃ©jÃ vu all over again.” “Nobody goes there these days, there are too many people.” “Baseball is 90% half mental.” “A nickel is no longer worth a penny.” âAlways go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.â “It’s not the heat, it’s humility.” “It’s late early here.” “You have to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” âEven Napoleon had his Watergate. âI am not going to buy an encyclopedia for my children. Let them go to school like I did. “The future is not what it used to be.”
This kind of misconception is technically what is called âmalapropismâ. It is the inadvertent use of the wrong word or phrase, often making the sentences hilarious and absurd. The term comes from a character named Mrs. Malaprop in “The Rivals,” a five-act comedy written by Richard Sheridan in 1775. Like Yogi, Mrs. Malaprop constantly stumbled over her sentences – much to everyone’s amusement: “He is the very pineapple of politeness! “She is as stubborn as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.” âI wouldn’t want any of my daughters to be educated offspring under any circumstances. I would have her educated in geometry, so that she would know something about contagious countries.
Shakespeare has used messes with great effect in several of his plays, perhaps most memorable with the goofy Sheriff Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing.” âO villain! You will be condemned to eternal redemption for it. “Ask the learned writer to drop our excommunication and meet me in prison.” âOur watch, my lord, did indeed include two suspicious persons, and we would like to have them examined this morning.
As you may have guessed, malapropisms can take a number of different forms. A mondegreen is an inadvertent misunderstanding, and then a subsequent mispronunciation of a word or phrase – âthe cattle are alone, the baby is waking upâ. Spoonerism occurs when letters or syllables are swapped in words or phrases slipping out of the tongue – or a “sling”. Eggcorn is an alteration of a word or phrase, reinterpreting it as a similar sounding word – “it’s just a pigment in your imagination.” Malapropisms all.
And they can be anywhere and everywhere. President Bush was famous for them – as was President Biden. Britain’s Prince Consort, Philip, was known to be prone to malapropism. Among his many blunders, solecisms and bloopers, he once said: “Non-dopedalogy is the science of opening the mouth and putting the foot on, which I have been practicing for many years.”
Indeed, don’t we all?
I am George Grant.
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