It’s not an easy task to exchange the right word for one that sounds the same but has a totally different meaning. The result can be hilarious in most cases, painful in the rest, and Ms. Allen did it with the effortless flick of her tongue and slow, easy bat of her eyes.
The word, malapropism, comes from the play “The Rivals” by Richard Sheridan in 1775. The character Mrs. Malaprop tried to present herself as cultured and refined. She used sophisticated words that she obviously didn’t understand. As a result, Sheridan coined the word from “mal a propos”: French for inappropriate.
Examples from the play:
“Promise to forget this fellow–to illiterate him, I say . . .”
And more from elsewhere:
God asked Abraham to sacrifice Issac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Issac, stole his brother’s birthmark (birthright).
One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, gave refuse (refuge) to the Israelites.
Moses went up on Mount Cyanide (Sinai) to get the ten commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar.
Solomon, one of David’s sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines (concubines).”
Try it sometime. And rent some Burns and Allen while your at it.