Seven riveting words for befuddling blunders
"Would you like some butter on your bed?" Take the margarine off the quilt! You've simply stumbled across a parapraxis. From the Latin para meaning "beside" and praxis, Greek for "a doing," a parapraxis is an instance in which you say one thing and mean your mother. . . another. The term is most commonly known as a Freudian slip and was deeply instrumental in the work of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in determining his patients hidden intentions and desires.
"And in the final round, the boxer knocked out his opponent with a blushing crow!" Don't worry. They don't let birds in the ring. You've just been dealt the crushing blow of a spoonerism. Named after W.A. Spooner, an English clergyman in the late 1800s famed for slips of the tongue, a spoonerism is the transposition of consonants or phonemes within a phrase. So whether you're hushing your brat or brushing your hat, you have the dear Reverend Spooner to thank.
"I'll never change, I is what I is!" Whether this grammar makes you cringe or feels like an act of rebellion, you've just witnessed a solecism. From the Greek soloikos for speaking incorrectly, solecism refers to the ancient Greek city of Soloi, an Athenian colony infamous for its corrupted form of the Greek language. Today solecism refers to any nonstandard grammatical usage from the accidental to the absurd. Flip to the next slide for a taste of just how absurd a solecism can be.
"This is unparalyzed in the state's history," said former Texas Speaker of the House Gib Lewis. Though Speaker Lewis meant to say "unparalleled in the state's history," he unknowingly created a fantastic malapropism. Coined by Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, a malapropism is the unintentional misuse of a word by confusing it with a word of a similar sound. In Sheridan's play Mrs. Malaprop is always "the pine-apple of politeness" (pinnacle) and never "a negative affluence" (influence).
"Grandma thinks every man with a mustache is hiding something!" Fear not gentle reader. Your grandmother's aversion to facial hair is nothing more than a mumpsimus. The Renaissance philosopher Desiderius Erasmus coined this sumptuous word for the determined use of a mistaken expression or practice in a story. Erasmus describes a monk who stubbornly persisted in saying mumpsimus rather than the correct "sumpsimus" while reciting the Latin liturgy. Are you holding onto a mumpsimus of your own? You might be committing our next slide.
Do your e's sometimes wander mistakenly in front of your i's? Have you been berated for wearing black shoes with a brown belt? If you've ever been guilty of a physical and orthographic "party foul," you've committed a faux pas. Literally translated from the French meaning "a false step," a faux pas can be any embarrassing social blunder on the page or off. So now that you've been introduced to all our blunders, flip to the next slide to find the word that describes them all.
From the Greek roots caco- meaning "bad" and -logy, "a speaking, discourse, doctrine or theory," a cacology is any speech that is defectively pronounced or diction that is socially unacceptable. So let go of your mumpsimus. Forgive your significant other for their parapraxis. Write a thank you card to Mrs. Malaprop, and most importantly, cut yourself a little slack. We all commit faux pas from time to time.
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