Monday, August 15, 2011

Figures Of Speech: Malaprops & Moronyms.

Share this ARTICLE with your colleagues on LinkedIn .

We bloggers (and the occasional speechwriter) use for quick word definitions, etymological stories (there's one below) and for alternate word choices. For this last, we use the Thesaurus feature. It ("Dic," as we chronic abbreviators and vulgar insinuators often call it... for short), is enormously useful, despite the fact that it is so laden with ads, pop-ups, pavilions, flash graphics and other distractions that the quick bit of information which you seek is often hidden ("obscured" would have been a snazzier word choice, but I'm in a rush) on the page.

While some people (mostly 23-year old internet billionaires or Baby-Boomers taking a break from looking for an employment opportunity which they'll never find) think this "word search" or "improve your visual acuity"- type exercise is fun, I detest it, although I wouldn't put that in writing. Being the Baron Of Braintenance (my hobby) as well as the modest Chairman of TNNWC Management Consulting Services (an adult job), I must keep all of my options and resources open. Flexibility and adaptation are crucial business skills.

Today, I needed an alternative for the word malapropism, and stumbled upon Mondegreen, which is defined and discussed below, courtesy of Dic. When children learn things by being encouraged to parrot what they are hearing from adults, they become mondegreen-manufacturers. For example, I remember singing "My country tis a bee, sweet lamb of liver tea, of thee I see..." And I wasn't the only one. It was a pandemic.

This mondegreenation (not exactly a Lingovation, but a grammatical extrapolation) is a product of a) not listening too closely, and b) not understanding the meanings of the actual words. Acquired early, these survive late into adulthood and can be the cause of embarrassment.

As children, we were afraid to run out in the cold for fear of catching "ammonia" and going into a "comber."

I once dated a woman (in her 40s at the time) who asked me if I had "...ever seen the Three Stoogers as a child." I knew that she had intended to say "stooges," but the damage was already done. I responded (smart aleck that I was) by saying "Yes. That was the best way to see them." She looked perplexed, but grinned sweetly. I knew that my overnight bag was going to stay in the trunk of my car.

Collectively speaking, I like to refer to all of these errors in spoken communications as "Moronyms." Whether they are spoonerisms, malaprops, grammatical extrapolations [I invented that] or just dumb things like "Notary Republic," the term moronyms (a legitimate lingovation, and cleverly engineered to look like such real words as homonyms, and synonyms) covers the field.

Enjoy your mondegreens, my cognition-craving, brain-straining colleagues. And be certain to visit these other pleasure stations within the TNNWC InfoSphere for stimulation:,,, and


[mon-di-green] Show IPA
a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.

Compare eggcorn.
See also malapropism.

1954; coined by Sylvia Wright, U.S. writer, from the line laid him on the green,  interpreted as Lady Mondegreen,  in a Scottish ballad.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Bookmark and Share