What we have here is a failure to communicate all over again


May 20, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Without further delay and very little remorse, I am today presenting another column of malaprops, verbal accidents and literary goofs, all of them local, too. They were contributed by men and women of both sexes living within close proxy of Baltimore, the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Basin. All of these people have an ear for fractured English, an eye for strange expositions of words and a nose for smelling rotten electrocution of language, if you know what I mean, which I don't. Most folks signed their letters. Some submitted their malaprops synonymously. Therefore, all absolutions being final, here is the latest agglomeration of bloopers agglomerated by This Just In. Let us bow our brains.

Words like butter

Melanie Cook works as a medical secretary at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was so nice about sending in a collection of malaprops, I'm tempted to offer her a prize, but we don't have one, so Melanie will have to be content with my gratitude as consolidation.

While explaining the subtleties of business, someone once referred to the difference between the purchase price of an item and what it sold for as "the profit margarine." Someone who was lost told Melanie, "I can't get my ball bearings straight." A self-proclaimed artist wanted to paint a "muriel" on her office wall. (Melanie doesn't smoke.) And someone once offered her this sage warning: "You could be held reliable if someone slips on your sidewalk."

(Another version of this came from a fellow who, with his wife, was considering renting a waterfront house in Middle River. His wife told the prospective landlord: "We'll draw up a rental agreement that won't hold you reliable for anything.")

Melanie Cook also recalled the time she was in a Dunkin' Donuts and heard someone order "barbarian cream donuts."

(A deviation of this came from Nancy Whiteford, who lives in Otterbein. She distinctly recalls hearing a patient at Franklin Square Hospital tell his visitors, "They gave me a Bavarian enema.")

Words for the better

Jacqueline Watts, editor of The East Baltimore Guide, appreciates a good malaprop now and then, but she also has a keen ear for inventive use of the language. "I know you're looking for malaprops that mangle the language," she writes, "but a very nice fellow from Canton uttered one that I think improves it. He came to the Guide to place a 40th wedding anniversary announcement and said, 'Mims and me, we've had our disagrievances, but all together we've had a good time.' I think it's a much better word."

B6 Hey, Jackie, you'll hear no disagrievance from me.

Writing test

Janis Rettaliata, a Baltimore photographer, faxed a quick note to her lawyer one night a couple of weeks ago. Next morning, a clerk at the law firm called to ask her to send the note a second time because the first fax "came out jittery and ineligible."

Don't quote me

Malaprops submitted by people who wish to remain unanimous:

"Lock 'em up and throw away the book."

"A friend just had flush carpet installed."

"In a crowded elevator I always get closer phobia."

"Terrible accident. I think the passenger was decaffeinated."

"Hay fever. All stuffed up. My scientists are bothering me."

"Hello? Is this the Infidelity and Fertilization Clinic?"

"Ah, spring. Aren't the forsyphilis bushes beautiful this time of year?"

"Do you think Pete Rose will ever be indicted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?"

Set in stone

A woman who said she once worked as a secretary to the editor of a small-town newspaper kept the following malaprop out of one of her boss's patriotic editorials: "We should not take these rights and privileges for granite."

Fish tale

While on vacation, a Marylander named Matt was driving through the Vermont countryside with his new wife, Nancy. "Oh, look," said Nancy. "Look at all those cows chewing their cod."

"Cud," said Matt. "This is Vermont. Cows only chew cod in Massachusetts."

Bad seed is a perennial

Cheryl DiMenna said please don't print this malaprop muttered by her mom, Dolly Gries, while Dolly, who lives in New Jersey, is visiting Baltimore. OK, but I can't be consterned about what happens between a woman and her daughter. Cheryl called this one in, after all. I didn't illicit it from her. Cheryl says Dolly was talking about a friend's son, a guy who traveled with a bad crowd in South Jersey and who frequently got in trouble. Said Dolly: "They even found him dead once in Philadelphia."

Bathroom humor

A loyal and happy customer of Angler's Restaurant and Marina in Grasonville reports that the establishment recently has been remodeled and that its food remains as popular as ever with local fishermen and boaters. But he couldn't help but notice -- and share with This Just In, of course -- the following boast from a magazine advertisement for Angler's: "We're done!! The New Bathrooms Are Open & Seating Is Now Better."

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