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Young Biff: Why don't you make like a tree, and get out of here?
Old Biff: [dope slap] It's leave, you idiot! "Make like a tree, and leave!" You sound like a damn fool when you say it wrong!

The distinguishing characteristic of the Malaproper is that they constantly replace words with similar-sounding but wrong ones. A common form of this is for the Malaproper to mangle proverbs, idioms, and other figures of speech. They may use overly complicated synonyms that make them sound wrong; e.g., "The cat's out of the bag" becomes "The feline has been released from the sack!" Alternatively, they may use words that sound almost right — "Let's get this shoe on the toad!" for "Let's get this show on the road!" They may also nonsensically combine figures of speech ("You can't cross the same river without breaking a few eggs"). (See Mixed Metaphor.) This character will sometimes be corrected, not that this does any good.

The term "malaproper" comes from "malapropism", a reference to Mrs. Malaprop, a character from the 1775 play The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan whose name, in turn, is derived from malapropos, an adjective or adverb meaning "inappropriate" or "inappropriately". Mrs. Malaprop's name and character were based on the idea of making malapropos statements.

(Although the trope can be found in earlier works — for instance, it is also exemplified by Sergeant Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.)

Injuries to certain parts of the brain can produce aphasia, loss of speech or speech impediment. Damage to Broca's Area can cause a complete inability to form words at all, while damage to Wernicke's Area can produce complete loss of comprehensible speech (the words come out okay but don't mean anything in relation to each other). This is one cause of malapropism. That and liquor. Another very rare condition — proxyglossoriasis — (according to the Duckman television show) has the sufferer replace the intended word with a nearby word in the dictionary. The effect is often hysterical.

Often used by those speaking Poirot Speak. Can also be used to indicate one who is Raised by Wolves, an Alien Speaking English, or else a Cloudcuckoolander, whose sense of reality isn't affected (or effected, as the case may be) by actual reality. May be used to set up an Expospeak Gag.

Compare and contrast with Delusions of Eloquence, Blunt Metaphors Trauma, Freudian Slip, [Popular Saying], But..., and My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels. Compare and contrast also with the Spoonerism, where the first letter or syllable is transposed for comedy effect. If the speaker uses the apparently correct words instead but gets hopelessly lost in their train of thought, that's Metaphorgotten. If using the wrong word is the result of mishearing the correct word, that's a Mondegreen Gag. Rouge Angles of Satin is this trope in written form.

See here for a self-demonstrating version of this page.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • A 1980s radio spot for Detroit-area retailer Highland Appliance featured an interview with a "professional doubletalker" who unleashed a veritable Hurricane Of Malaprops.
  • Comedian Norm Crosby was known for malapropisms. In a Miller Lite beer commercial featuring Oakland A's pitcher Catfish Hunter at a bar throwing darts, Norm first calls him Catfood Hunter. Then after Catfish hits dead center, Norm quips, "Hey! Bull's ear, Catnip!"

  • In a sketch on the Smothers Brothers album Mom Always Liked You Best! Tommy Smothers commented on how they went to a friend's wedding and then attended the "conception" afterwards. When Dick countered this with "He means reception, folks," Tommy sheepishly replied "I must've been in the wrong room."
    • In the intro to the song "Daniel Boone"note , Dickie says Daniel Boone was a trader and a trapper, to which Tommy responds, "Yeah, Daniel Boone was a trailer and a tractor!"
  • From Another Monty Python Record:
    And now, a massage from the Swedish prime minister. (Sound of a masseuse kneading a patron's back)

    Comic Books 
  • Sin City: Stubb and Krunk.
  • Molly Hayes from Runaways sometimes mixes up her words.
  • The Beast is prone to this in X-Men Noir because he tries to sound smart but reaches farther than his vocabulary can vouch for. He's a very bright kid, though.
  • Lucullan, Emperor Golgoth's minister of War demonstrates this in Mark Waid's Empire. He uses big words to make himself sound smarter, but gets them wrong half the time (ironically, he is a tactical genius). Although on one notable occasion, it is not clear whether he accidentally uses the right word, or decides to amuse himself by telling the truth, knowing they'll just assume he made a mistake. This will make sense in context, but let's just say he didn't mean "Martinets". In one issue, a fellow warrior notes you can always tell when Lucullan is truly angry as "it's the one time he actually talks sense."
  • Melody in Josie and the Pussycats does this frequently. One story has Josie and Valerie shocked that "she finally got one right!" In another story, Melody's 'mixed-up maxims' are mistaken for Spy Speak, and she's handed something from another agent, because she inexplicably rattled off a code-phrase!
  • There is an eight-part comic in Werner – Oder was? about a guy named Günter who is sent to the pharmacy by his mother to get a pack of Spironolactonil-ratiopharm for his father. Not only can't he get the name right — it ends up as things like "Spironalin Resopal", "Spironolocktan Ratiniloplan" or "Spiranol-Naploram" —, but it drives him insane enough to end up in a hospital. When he is ordered to be treated with Spironolactonil-ratiopharm himself, he escapes in sheer panic.
  • Tintin: Thompson and Thomson mix up their words at times. To be precise, at times they're wordy and mixed-up.
  • Pomru Purrwakkawakka, the Tavitan copilot of the titular humongous Mecha in Dynamo Joe, likes to show off his command of the language by using English idioms and exclamations, but rarely gets them right; for example, "Let's blow this pup tent!"
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    Spinister: A transmat suite!
    Misfire: Sweet!
    Spinister: That's what I said.

    Comic Strips 
  • Ernest from the comic strip Frank and Ernest is a master malaproper. Occasionally, he even appears as superhero Malaprop Man ("It's absurd! It's inane! It's Malaprop Man!").
  • Ed Crankshaft, eponymous grumpy old man of Crankshaft tends to be of the "mixing metaphors" type, but occasionally strays into more improper malaprops, such as using "philanderer" for "philatelist".
  • Opus of Bloom County is very fond of this.
    "Pear pimples for hairy fishnuts!" (How he hears "Prayer temples for Hare Krishnas.")
    "Sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns of a dilemma."
    In one strip, the supporting cast all gasp in horror as he starts a malapropism with "you can lead a yak to water," and just brace themselves for what's to come. Opus realizes it, thinks hard... and concludes with "but you can't teach an old dog to make a silk purse out of a pig in a poke," which makes them scream.
  • Peanuts: Sally often commits malapropisms in her school reports (such as the "Bronchitis", a dinosaur which became extinct from coughing too much, and "Santa Claus and his Rain Gear" instead of "reindeer").
  • 50% of the humor of The Family Circus is this.
  • Jason, of all people, did this in not one, but two FoxTrot comics. He and his friend Marcus, on March 15th, dressed up as giant eyeballs while chanting "Beware the eyes of March" in an attempt to scare Paige. Paige just corrected them, saying that it was supposed to be the "Ides of March". Another time, he and Marcus were dressed for Halloween as "country pumpkins", with the pumpkins' holes shaped like Italy and Lithuania, but Paige told them "It's country bumpkins. And shouldn't you have southern accents then?"

    Fan Works 
  • Although Total Drama's Lindsay does this mainly with names in the show (typically in a mondegreen style), fanfic writers often flanderize her into a full-fledged malaproper.
  • One of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's many Ensemble Dark Horses, Derpy Hooves, is portrayed in Fanon as falling into malapropisms, especially when stressed or anxious.
  • Half-Life: Full Life Consequences: "Thanks I could help bro!" Of course, it being a Troll Fic, there's plenty of malapropos gems laying about. Or is lying about?
  • The third episode of To Belong begins with brothers Jim and Sinbad getting into an argument on whether an insult is "fanny-pants" or "fany-pants". Charming, the one they were insulting, cuts in and tells them the correct term is "fancy-pants".
  • In The Rod Squad, Dale refers to England Dan and John Ford Coley as England Jim and John Wilkes Booth.
  • In the Alternate Tail Series, while Levy rambles of how Gajeel's inability to regain magic from his own iron is in accords to the Laws of Thermodynamics, Gajeel states he stopped listening after she said "Thermos-Dynamite."
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Because of their malfunctioning translator collars bought at a bargain-basement store, the aliens in "The Spaceship" misspeak a lot when they talk to Rhino.
    Gidney: [peevishly] Budget cuts! Budget cuts! That's all our Beerless Leader says to us anymore.
    Cloyd: [whispering] Not in front of the G-E-N-Y-U-S. We'll make a terrible first compression on our guest of honor!
  • A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script: As Beren and Finrod are talking about the latter possibly running into hostile people while wandering around the Halls of Mandos, Beren subtly hints that Finrod's estranged fiancee has just arrived.
    Beren: "Um, Sir — that wasn't a rhetorical question."
    [long pause]
    Finrod: [desperate bravado] "I think the word you want is "hypothetical.""
    Beren: "No, I think the word we want is — "help".
  • In Rise of the Minisukas, Zefron's inability to not mix up words constantly drives its partner Azrael up the wall.
    Azrael: What I wouldn't give for someone who understands the value of presentation.
    Azrael: That's not….. you know what? Nevermind. Hopefully, the Lilim can appreciate a bit of flair.
    Azrael: Not flare, flair!
    Azrael: ….. I hate you so much right now.
  • The AFR Universe has made this an Once A Fic gag for Ryuji, who'll use the wrong word for what he's trying to say and be corrected by one of his friends. For example, in "Boys and Queens", Ryuji calls Ren and Makoto about how he appeared in a tabloid article because his picture was taken by a "pop rat".
    Ren: "Pop rat"?
    Ryuji: You know, those dudes who sneak around and take pictures of people in secret.
    Makoto: You mean "Paparazzi". It's Italian.
    Ryuji: I dunno what country the guy's from, Makoto!
  • In the Ma Fille chapter "Sleepover", six-year-old Claire mispronounces "anime" and "amine".
  • The Persona 5 fic Nudist Queen (NSFW) has Eiko saying her opinion of Makoto has "done a complete 360", obviously meaning a 180. Ren tells her she means a 540, pointing out to Makoto it is technically correct. Eiko is fooled, using 540 in the same context later.

    Films — Animation 
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
    • The head weasel is prone to these.
      Smart Ass: Search the place, boys, and leave no stone interned!
      Smart Ass: Hey, boss, you want we should disresemble the place?
    • Roger himself has a memorable one as well when, in the search for Marvin Acme's will, Eddie tells Dolores that she should "check the probate":
      Roger: Yeah, check the probate! Why, my Uncle Thumper had a problem with his "probate", and he had to take these big pills and drink lots of water...
      Eddie: Not prostate, you idiot! Probate!
  • Waffles in Rango: "It's a puzzle. It's like a big ol' mammogram!"
  • In Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Jack sometimes mixes up his words.
    Jack: After your concert, we'll make the whole oyster our world.
  • Doc from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs does this when he gets flustered. This was a specialty of comedian Roy Atwell, who voiced the character for the film, and adopted the trademark after a real-life screw-up on Broadway.
    • This even gets Exploited when the dwarfs let Snow White sleep in their bedroom for the night. When Doc assures her that they'll be comfortable, Grumpy interjects "In a pig's eye!" This throws off Doc to the point where he calls the cottage a "pig sty".
  • The Lion King (1994) has Pumbaa, who attempts to quote his cleverer friend, Timon: "You gotta put your behind in your past!" Even better, when Pumbaa learns that Simba is the king, he gets down on his knees and says, "I gravel at your feet." Timon corrects him there, too. It's even funnier in the Japanese dub. Pumbaa wants to say something about being Simba's servant, "shimobe." Instead he says he is his "shimobukure," which means "fat face" or "abdominal swelling."
  • The title character of Megamind has trouble uttering certain words, such as "shool" instead of "school", "spyider" instead of "spider", and most importantly, "Metrocity" (rhymes with "atrocity") instead of "Metro City," which becomes particularly important at the climax, as it allows Titan to uncover Megamind when posing as Metro Man.

  • A rich Ditz calls her doctor late at night. "Excuse me, I have to 'insult' you, because I'm suffering from 'confections' of the head." The Doctor: "Then I suggest you send your maid to the 'fallacy' and get a bottle of 'rhinoceros' oil."
  • A man goes to the doctor and insists he wants to be castrated. The doctor confirms several times that this is what he wants, and the patient is adamant. "I want to be castrated," he tells the doctor. When he wakes up after the procedure, the doctor says to him "I noticed you weren't circumcised." The patient looks at the doctor in horror and says "THAT'S the word!"
  • The woman who wants her doctor to give her a physical extermination because she hasn't demonstrated in three months and thinks she may be stagnant.
  • The man whose wife was unable to have children:
    She is impregnable... I mean, impenetrable... I mean, inconceivable!

  • Ringo Starr was famous for this. The song, album and film A Hard Day's Night were named after a phrase Ringo used after a concert. As he said: "It's been a hard day" he suddenly noticed it was dark outside and added "...'s night". Another one of his was "Tomorrow Never Knows", used on Revolver.
    • Paul McCartney also stated in a 1984 interview with Playboy that "Eight Days a Week" off Beatles for Sale was inspired by another of Ringo's malapropisms. He would later recant this claim, and now states that the phrase came from a chauffeur whom he probably just misremembered as Ringo.
  • The first line of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale", Skip the light fandango is a malapropism of Trip the light fantastic.
  • Frank Zappa often uses a rather unusual version of English in his songs, mainly to make the lyrics fit the music better. One particularly egregious example is the chorus to his song "Zomby Woof" from Over-Nite Sensation:
    Tellin' ya all the zomby troof!
    Here I'm is, the Zomby Woof!
  • Tenacious D has one rather big example in "Kickapoo". "Then I sliced his ***ing cockles, with a long and shiny blade!"note 
  • Pharrell Williams, during his verse on Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot", mispronounces "eligible" as "elgible". Wonder if he was trying to fit the rhyme scheme?
  • Norwegian singer/songwriter Bertine Zettlitz's "Death in her room" features the line "my baby – warlocks in her hair", apparently thinking warlock means lock of hair.
  • Done deliberately in Maria Solheim's "Richard" with the lines:
    Years of painted her hair
    And colored her face
  • Played for Laughs by The Adventures of Duane & BrandO in their song based on "Cheetahmen II", which opens with a deadpan narration of the game's opening text, preserving the typo "Dr. Morbis plans to use the Ape-Man to destroy his failed expirement." They later base the rhyme scheme of Dr. Morbis' verse based on this mistake:
    Cheetahmen, you are my failed expire-ment!
    I'm so sorry, you don't meet the requirement
    You're a sign I should have gone into retirement
    I'll run into you and drain your life of its entirement

    Print Media 
  • The Annals of Improbable Research article "The Missed Education of Harold Dowd" is mostly written in these.
    "I'm truly greatful for the opportunity to conceal my views on such an importunate topic, especially considering that your steamed author is a steamed high school dropout."
  • A popular feature in Punch! throughout its run, sometimes attributed to the original Mrs Malaprop herself as a columnist.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Mike Awesome would call WCW interviewer Pamela Paulshock "Paula Pamshock."

    Puppet Shows 
  • On The Pajanimals, Squacky is at times.
    Squacky: It's an oc-a-pus, that's what it is!
    Apollo and Cowbella: An oc-a-pus?
    Apollo: Oh! It's an oct-o-pus, Squacky!
    Squacky: Yeah, that's what I said. An oc-a-pus.
  • In Die Liewe Heksie, Lavinia the witch has difficulty with long words and peoples' names. Her sophisticated friend Karel Kat has to gently correct her about his helicopter, for instance, not a mielecopter as she describes it.

  • The Bob & Ray character of "Word Wizard" Elmer Stapley was given to this trope.
  • Nick Depopoulous, the Greek restaurateur on Fibber McGee and Molly.
    • Fibber himself was also given to these on occasion.
  • Brazilian Dudu Schechtel is infamous for this, to the point he is victim of Person as Verb by his workmates as a synonym for malapropers. The most infamous cases are him telling that tried to buy a lasagna in a drugstore, and saying that "If you leave the fridge on, your phone bill will skyrocket!" (the show's production replied by doing a sketch where his fridge left him a message on the answering machine reminding Dudu that it was on without reason)
  • In domcom series At Home With The Hardies, the gang visit the zoo. character Caroline is enchanted by a species of anteater native to South America.
    ooh, look! There's an armoured dildo!

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Josh Sundquist has a bit about how a stranger once asked him "How come you don't have a prostate?" - Josh is an amputee and was using crutches at the time, so it's clear through context that the man meant to say "prosthesis":
    "As a male, I do have a prostate. I don't have, for example, memory glands or Filipino tubes..."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Emil Bollenbach, a Mad Scientist from several Ravenloft adventures, has a bad habit of mixing up common figures of speech.

    Web Animation 
  • Senor Cardgage on Homestar Runner, who can just never decide on what to say. This originated from his conception as "creepy-comb-over Strong Bad", which was Strong Bad's imagination of what he would be like if he wasn't the "stylish, buff, handsome man in a wrestling mask" that he is. One of CCOSB's character tics was that he would "say some cool phrase that's almost one word and not quite another".
    Senor Cardgage: Carageenan, Montel John. Can you detect me to the nearest bus stamp?
    • And then there's Strong Bad, who frequently uses portmanteaus by accident, and mixes up phrases in mid-speech:
      Strong Bad: I'm not touching that thing, man; it's booby-trapped! It'll shoot a bunch of poisoned-tipped witch doctors at me!
    • In fact, this has become such a Running Gag on the website that the Wiki site has an article devoted to it.

  • Jim, who plays Qui-Gon Jinn in Darths & Droids. As often as not, that's from pretending to know what a word means, often in spite of the fact that the word was made up for the setting. A good example is believing that Jedi is a kind of cheese (which eventually turned Jedi Knights into Cheddar Monks).
  • Dean & Nala + Vinny: A Running Gag with Nala. For instance, she play acts that she is Princess Mononoke but pronounces the name as "Princess Mononucleosis".
  • In Everyday Heroes, Goldie described Jane as having "a black belt in takemdown" (taekwando).
  • Goblins: Minmax has a habit of misunderstanding words, such as interpreting "therapeutic" as "Sara puked it" or "pendulum" as "panda lung".
  • The villain For Whom the Death Tolls in Grrl Power continuously corrects people by stating that his name is a malaproper. Everyone else points out that not only does it sound really lame, but also doesn't make sense. And, in keeping with thinking he's an ineffective villain, ends up with googly eyes on his mask and then ignored.
  • Coyote from Gunnerkrigg Court seems incapable of pronouncing Antimony Carver's name, rendering it as Abalone, Acrimony Barber, or just Firehead Girl. By this point, it may be more of an in-joke than anything else.
  • In Huckleberry, the eponymous protagonist sometimes mixes up words and sayings, like saying "armordingo" instead of "armadillo", or "who in tarantula" instead of "who in tarnation".
  • The Order of the Stick: Belkar mishears "sextant" as "sex taint," which results in him taking Roy to see prostitutes instead of a cartographer. When Roy tries to correct him, Belkar then sources a cart of gophers.
    • Also, when hyperactive eight-year-old Greta is being restrained, she claims that "This is a vibration of my silly rights!" (violation of civil rights)
  • This xkcd comic coins the term "malamanteau", for a malapropism created by combining two words. (The word is a combination of "malapropism" and "portmanteau", which is a combination of two words in this manner.) As of this writing there's a lengthy discussion on Wikipedia regarding what should be done about the entry (which, like the word itself, did not exist until the comic went up).

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Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Word Mangler, Malapropisms, The Malaproper


D.W. plays "house" for James

In an attempt to get her preschool classmate James to kiss her (long story), D.W. plays a busy housewife with a "baby" (her doll Poopsie) bringing groceries from the "sugar market" (supermarket) for him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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Main / PlayingHouse

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