Those who say what no one could mean doom us to repeat it


April 22, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

What did I say? I said write to This Just In if you witness a slip of the tongue or hear a random act of malapropriateness. If someone you know experiences contusion while forming a sentence and mutters a malaprop -- a combination of words that sounds like the one intended but is actually ludicrous and makes you boulder over with laughter -- submit it to me. That way, this column becomes a sepository of all malaprops committed in the Baltimore metropolitan area, constitutionalizing a permanent record of how Americans still mess up the Queen's English.

In other words, I'm performing a public service, if I do say so myself, which I just did.

Airborne hilarity

I received contributions from readers who heard malaprops during television and radio broadcasts.

A Baltimore TV anchorman described a federal felony as "tax invasion."

A caller to a talk radio show referred to an elected official's "exuberant salary."

Rosamond Munro noted a statement from someone interviewed on an NBC weekend news show: "This particular smoke screen on gun control will not hold water."

Gems from Mrs. Colbourne

As I said in an earlier column, some people collect malaprops from relatives and friends, and treat them as heirlooms. Dolly Thommen remembers her mother's best friend, Mrs. Colbourne, who, in the innocence that makes the whole thing charming, murdered the language. Some examples of Colbourneisms:

She bought a new dress that "fit like a glove on the wall."

A friend went to the hospital to have her "eucharist removed."

When her son switched courses in college, Mrs. Colbourne was not pleased. She said, "You shouldn't change the color of the horse in the middle of the river."

When she had a headache, Mrs. C. took two "asburns" and stretched out for a snooze on her "sexual sofa."


More delicious moments

From Anonymous in Kingsville:

"My father-in-law is a veritable font of malaprops. Example: 'That seafood dinner we had was great. It came with big, juicy polyps.' "

From Anonymous in Salisbury:

"A young friend had a relative who had been hospitalized. When asked about the patient's progress, she replied, 'Not very well. The doctors had to seduce her twice.' "

From Anonymous in Baltimore:

"Mother's friend went to movies a lot. If she liked one, she said, 'Oh, it was good. Don't fail to miss it.' "

From Anonymous in Hampstead:

"I work for a department store. We sell Martin Senour Paint. Recently, a customer asked for 'Monsignor Paint,' a brand we didn't carry."

Medium rare

Joe Schweiger, a Medfield guy -- I forgot to ask if, like other Medfielders, he has indoor-outdoor turf on his front porch -- says he was in a jewelry store in Towson when he heard a woman describe a traffic snarl at a car accident.

"We had to drive up on the meteor strip to get around the accident," the woman said. "In fact, one car even hit the meteor wall." Says Joe: "I thought about stopping her and correcting her, but decided, 'No, no, Joe, just let her go. Someone will get a kick out of this.' "

Right. It's better to enjoy the moment. That woman might have been the only person in the English-speaking world unaware that the correct term is "medium strip." Everyone but her knows that.

Canine patrol

From Dundalk, Diane Pinter recalls how the driver in her car pool startled everyone by suddenly yelling, "Look! A dover! A dover!"

"What's a dover?" someone in the back seat wondered.

"There, over there!" the driver said. "A dover pinscherman! My favorite dog."

Carolina wisdom

A Baltimore public relations man met with clients in North Carolina recently. Discussing the dynamics of local politics, one of the men at the meeting said, "You have to be very careful whose nose you're stepping on around here."

The divine divan

Jane Pearce of Butler must have felt her eyebrows pop when she heard a woman describing a daughter's newlywed apartment. In addition to all the usual furnishings, the couple had one of those big sofas with lots of separate pieces. You know, "sexual furniture."

In the heat of the monument

"Hey," Turkey Joe Trabert said to a fellow putting on a heavy winter coat retrieved from the cloak room at Center Stage. "That's a real nice coat you've got there."

"Casimir," Trabert's friend said. "One hundred percent casimir."

Strike three

When people get reflective and philosophical, watch out. Just when words need to be carefully chosen, that's when disaster seems to strike. Here's how Jack Neil, a Philadelphia longshoreman, was quoted during a moment of introspection: "I only made one mistake in my life. I got married three times."

Too much of a good thing

Even Jack Luskin, the cheapest guy in town, sprang for postage for a letter with a malaprop. "One of my suppliers once said, 'Jack, our business has been just sensational; we've done a 360-degree turn.' "

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.