A few weeks ago Susie Dent, in her Origin of Words slot on the Channel 4 show “Countdown”, featured the word “malaphor”. It’s a cross between a malapropism and a metaphor, or series of metaphors. Malapropism is a word that I have been aware of since the age of 12 and, unlike zeugma or synecdoche, has always come to mind when needed. I have known, for decades now, that it’s named after the character Mrs Malaprop from Sheridan’s play “The Rivals” (even though I have never seen it), but I needed this definition from the Oxford dictionaries website to confirm that the play was written in 1775. A malapropism is described in that definition as the “mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with an amusing effect (e.g. ‘dance a flamingo’ instead of flamenco)”.
Malaphors do a similar thing, with metaphors instead of words, mixing them up to leave you with something quite different. “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him” and “I wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole” could end up as “I wouldn’t trust him with a bargepole”. You could mix “Putting on a brave face” with “Putting your best foot forward” and end up with “Putting your best face forward”. Susie Dent ended her brief explanation with my personal favourite: “He’s a minefield of information”.
I am also rather taken by this American website, Malaphors.com, which cites plenty of recent examples, many of them from sport and politics. “It’s as dead as a cucumber”, “They sold me down the creek without a paddle”, “The White House is lying its teeth off” and “That’s the icing on the iceberg” all stand out. There’s even a book available from the site, “He smokes like a fish, and other malaphors”. I should probably buy it, study it and commit more examples to memory. I could become a minefield of information. Maybe I already am.
3 thoughts on “Word of the week: malaphor”
Thank you so much for the shout out for my website and book! I send out a new one almost everyday on my website so folks can sign up and get them sent to their emails. It’s the top of the notch! My book is on Amazon and here is the link. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692652205
Thanks again and merry malaphoring!
Reblogged this on Malaphors.
Big fan of your website: it’s the cat’s bananas.
Love the book as well.
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