Monthly Archives: August, 2014

The Divine Mrs M Just Won’t Go Away

Mrs Malaprop Chip and Dale Dan Brown

Mrs Malaprop never left. We’ve been down the mal apropos path before in earlier blogs, talking about her ‘beggar’s belief’ and her buzzword confusions. ‘Mind due,’ she has also featured ‘for all intensive purposes’ in the ‘egg-corn’ form and then ‘low and behold’ she popped up in a discussion about the paraprosdokian.

That redoubtable lady of the Restoration stage is with us still, often sticking her foot in the mouths of unwary broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh (‘as interchangeable as the seasons’) or dangerously misguided advertising efforts from well-meaning organisations such as the Boy Scouts of America (‘children are our most valuable acid’).

She turns up in clumsy adverts for Floor Shine shoes or Chip and Dale furniture. She resurfaces in the soupy sea of classified ads selling Chester Drawers or Wayne’s Coating. She’s there in the mouths of reality TV stars talking of ‘escape goats’ and ‘rod iron’. Her presence looms large when we hear of something giving us ‘pause for concern’ or when anyone asks us to ‘please be pacific’. I’ve been asked if I’m getting the ‘jest’ of something and there’s only one answer. I’ve been told there’s a ‘traumatic difference’ between two options and it’s hard to disagree.

I’ve heard examples of the English language miscuing in translation, which has resulted in amusing but benign visits from Mrs Malaprop, e.g. ‘the space shovel,’ ‘I synchronise with your pain’. I’ve heard about her visits to the mouths of children, ‘Thanks, Peter God’ and ‘Moonlight Sinatra’. Perfectly fair excuses. We should take each of these with a ‘grain assault’.

But when adults stumble into the presence of Mrs M, ‘all bungled up with’ other matters, they have no excuses, even those who possess a ‘photogenic memory’ or are speaking ‘in the binocular’. When someone ‘attends a candlelight visual’ or ‘cuts the biblical cord’ or worries that a stroke may leave them a ‘vegetarian’ Mrs M has taken possession in devil form.

We all make mistakes. But do ‘dreams really come through’? Does everyone have an ‘antidote to tell’? Do we engage in risk-taking behaviour just to ‘relieve the monopoly’? Does anyone truly get ‘prostrate cancer’ or suffer ‘heart-rendering experiences’? People are, by necessity, buried in ‘hollowed ground’ but that’s not the meaning intended. When we take clear communication ‘for granite’ we run the risk of an ‘Alcatraz around our necks’. That kind of language misfiring can damage our ‘self of steam,’ even if we’re full of ‘vim and vinegar’ or paying attention to ‘every little aorta’.

I could draw a ‘great big diaphragm’ to explain all this but I’ll leave it to the master of English prose, Dan Brown, who recommends a ‘broad-brush approach with a mixed palate’. Mmm. Sounds delicious.

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