You've got to be as sharp as a hack to come up with stuff like this


April 08, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Just so you're not freaked by what you read today, I am putting you on notice: Throughout this column you're going to read malaprops. And in case you don't know what malaprops are, allow me to shred some light on the subject.

Once upon time, there was this fellow named Richard Sheridan, who, from my recollection, was a gunsmith in the Old West, with the credo, "Have Gun Will Travel."

(Time out. . . . Make that Palladin, who was played by Richard Boone in the old TV series, not Sheridan. What happened was, I got my Sheridan and my Palladin mixed up. And then Richard got thrown in there twice, and Sheridan made me think of "sheriff," which explains my contusion, don't you?)

Palladin reminds me of the time I made a malaprop by mistake. In one of those infernal opera-columns about William Donald Schaefer -- you know, Don Donaldo -- I said the governor was sitting and brewing near palladium windows.In fact, I meant palladian windows, which were named after Andy Pal ladian, an archetype who designed buildings in the seance. Palladium, on the other hand, was a Trojan. And Palladin was a gunslinger with a big nose on TV.

So anyway. Sheridan. He was a wheelwright who wrote plays, and there was this one play we read and analogued in college. It was called, "The Rivals," and Sheridan wrote it before his immature death in 1816. A character in that play was Mrs. Malaprop, and she was consequently saying ridiculous things, abusing the Queen's English, misusing words, mixing her pinafores and confusing her parabolas. That's the destination of the word, "malaprop."

Me, I like to collect malaprops myself.

There was the time when John Schaefer was serving in the City Council and he addressed a group of veterinarians on the subject of national defense. He said, "Military preparedness is the best detergent against aggression."

Another time I heard a Curtis Bay woman, on live TV after an industrial gas leak in her neighborhood, say: "All I know is, the police knocked on our doors and we were evaporated from the area."

I'm not the only one who collects malaprops. Richard Lederer -- yet another Richard; I hope you're not complexed by all this -- writes books about malaprops. One was called, "Anguished English," and it's burning a hole on my shelf.

People around Baltimore always mail malaprops to me by mail. I collect the collections of collectors, and some of these collectors have one, maybe two people they know who are always doing malaprops. They stroll off the tongue naturally. Today we offer a sampling from readers of This Just In . . .

If the collar fits, wear it

Connie B. Hart, of Reisterstown, says she's been collecting malaprops from her friend Margaret Becker for years. Some of these constipate malaprops. At the risk of sounding too clerical, others are just weird.

On avoiding regrets: "You don't want that hanging over your head like a wet potato."

An arrogant man "has a chimp on his shoulder."

A sharp-witted person is "as smart as a pin."

Something that occurs quickly occurs "faster than your head can swim."

A self-perpetuating cycle of negative activity is a "vicious snowball."

Other Becker Bites: "Oh, for crying outside! . . . It sticks out like a soar throat. . . . If you beat a dead horse it will only get stale."

Super Fresh, indeed

The other day in the new Super Fresh in Hampden, a rumpled, elderly man got in the way of a rumpled, young woman with two kids. Flustered, the old man tried to step out of the woman's way and said, "Let me get myself all saturated here."

One mean malaprop

An employee of the Social Security Administration reports that a man who receives benefits through that agency wrote a letter reporting that he had been convicted of hitchhiking and jaywalking. "I was recently convicted of two Mister Meaners and want to know if my check will still come," the letter said.

Travails with Charlie

Greg Philipowitz remembers with great affection his old lacrosse coach from Catonsville High, Charlie DeManns. "The class of 1971 loved playing for him," Greg says. One reason was his occasional DeMannerisms:

"Line up in pairs of threes!"

"I'm not here tutoring my own horn."

"Flippo, remember, this guy is tall -- 6 to 2 to 3 to 4."

"There's only one color on this team -- blue and gold."

Aunt Ruth's own art form

A few years ago, Bryan McKay's Aunt Ruth visited the site of the Federal Reserve while it was under construction in South Baltimore.

"They had all these artichokes on display, it was fabulous," she told a group of relatives.

"Artichokes?" someone said.

"Yes," said Aunt Ruth. "Artichokes they recovered when they dug the foundation -- old pottery, coins, clay pipes, that sort of thing."

Write to This Just In at The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or call 410-332-6166. We're always looking for noggins of interest and items that extrapolate the obvious. Let your mind be your guide.

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