Malapropisms can be funny, but only if one understands both the misused word and the word appropriate in the context.
Here are four malapropisms that left one reader scratching his head:
1.The butler entered the drawing room bearing the visitor’s name card on a silver sliver.
The word wanted here is salver, not sliver.
A salver is a tray;
A sliver is a very narrow splinter of some substance.
A “silver sliver” would not be large enough to hold a visitor’s card.
2. Mrs Jones earned the reputation of a vertigo because her poor husband’s head was always in a spin from her constant nagging and scolding.
The word wanted in this context is virago, not vertigo.
Vertigo is dizziness;
A virago, in this context, is a loud, obnoxious woman who nags and scolds and doesn’t behave as a “proper woman” should. (The word virago has an interesting history that deserves a post of its own.)
3. The teacher commented that Jane’s essay on D. H. Lawrence was extremely erotic; although certain parts were commendable, others left much to be desired.
Yes, D.H. Lawrence is noted for erotic content, but the appropriate word here is erratic. The clue is “certain parts were commendable, others left much to be desired.”
erotic – “relating to sexual desire.”
erratic – “irregular, inconsistent, eccentric.”
4. Unfortunately, all efforts to pacify the furious tourists only served to exasperate the situation.
Many native English speakers might miss the malapropism in this one because the words exasperate and exacerbate are often used as if they meant the same thing.
For example, here’s an exchange at Wiki Answers.com:
Q: Can you use “exasperate” in a sentence?
A: The 20 mph winds really exasperated the already 20 degree weather, making it feel like 0 degrees.
exasperate – to cause irritation or annoyance in a person.
exacerbate – to make a situation worse.
The Wiki winds, therefore, would exacerbate the weather and the efforts to pacify the tourists in Example 4 would exacerbate the situation.
Thanks to Jayanthi K for suggesting this post.