Thursday, April 26, 2007

The new and improved Miss Malaprop

I am the Boswell to the greatest malaprop artist since Norm Crosby died (“What? He’s still alive? He was actually in a movie this year? Sorry Norm). . . the greatest malaprop artist since Gracie Allen.

Crosby was good. Gracie Allen was hysterical. Miss Malaprop herself is, of course, fictional. But the artist we shall call “P” is the greatest of them all. She is always spontaneous and brilliant. While reading these pithy statements or conversations you may believe that they were planned made up. I can only promise that they were not.

I admit to my own failing in endeavoring to record these gems, as far too often I have promised myself I would write them down, and forgotten, eventually losing the memory. Sadly, those words have been lost to the ages.

P used to get mad when I would share these babies with other people, but has come, over time, to see them as I do, a reflection of one of the most charming parts of her personality (to me the most charming). Although she may cringe at seeing some of them in print, I am sure she will forgive me. I just believe in my heart that these sparkling words should not be lost to the ages, and that this is the place to record them.

I use the term “malapropism” very loosely here to cover all types of misspeaking, although there is actually a more specific definition for the word. P has three types which she frequently makes. The first is the mixed or fractured metaphor, the second is the mixed up word and the third, the curious conversation.

Here are samples of her classic work which I have succeeded in recording:

The mixed or fractured metaphor:
The genius here is that the metaphor attempted is often so close to the original that although you know something is wrong, it takes a few seconds before you can figure it out. So as not to strain your minds while you read for pleasure, I’ll put the correct phrase in parentheses.

“Can you name that whistle” (. . . name that tune)

“I need this like I need a hole in the wall” (. . . like a hole in the head)

“I hit her right on the head with a nail with that one” (. . . hit the nail on the head)

“There he was, big as lightning” (. . . big as life)

“He really gets under my nail” (. . . under my skin)

“I wouldn’t do that for all of China” (. . . for all the tea in China)

“He was wired for stress” (“wired for sound”).

And the granddaddy of them all . . .

“You have to be careful at crosswalks because Presbyterians have the right of way” (If you don’t know it should be “pedestrian” instead of “Presbyterian,” you need to read slower).

The substituted word:

“Poor guy couldn’t sleep. He has sominesia” (. . . insomnia).

“That is one asslong light” (. . . long ass . . . ).

“They have an asskissing house” (. . . ass kicking . . .).

The curious conversation:

All I can say about these conversations is that I swear they are true. She is called “P” below and I am “D”.

The Great Columbus
(over the telephone)
P: “I have to help my daughter with a Columbus Day assignment. Can you tell me something about Columbus?”
D: “Sure. In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
P: “That’s not right. You mean 1942.”
D: “1942? Your father was alive in 1942. You think he was first mate?”
P (sound of her flipping through her daughter’s textbook): “Oh, right. Okay, so now give me one word about Columbus”
D: “Ummm, India”
P: “What has that to do with anything?”
D: “You know, Columbus didn’t know he was discovering America. He thought he found a fast route to India.”
P: “America?! He didn’t discover America. He discovered Spain.”
D: “You are positive you went to school, right?
P: (with great certainty) “THIS I’m sure of. (sounds of more flipping through the textbook). Oh, right. "

Batter Up
(at a restaurant)
D: “Come on. Let’s get going so we can catch the end of the seventh game.”
P: “Good. I hate to miss the World Series. I love the Yankees.”
D: “Stop. You don’t know anything about baseball.”
P: “Oh, really. Ask me anything about the Yankees.”
D: “Okay, name one Yankee.”
P: “Uhhhhh . . . Reggie Jackson?”
D: “He retired like 15 years ago.”
P: “Ask me something about baseball then.”
D: “All right. How many innings in a game?”
P: “This you are not going to get me on – there are three quarters.” (Even if she had said four quarters, it's still, a beaut).

P: “I pretty much finished my Christmas shopping. I only have David left.”
D: “You mean me?”
P: “No. David and Goliath”
D: “I’m surprised you know who David and Goliath are.”
P: “Of course I do (said with derision).
D: “So, who was Goliath?”
P: (In her most mocking voice) “Heeeee’s a dawwwg.” (If you don’t know the animated Davey and Goliath, you will draw a blank here).

(After watching the movie Ali)
P: “So, do you think that Ali would be in the condition he is in today if he wasn’t hit in the head so many times?”
D: “I don’t know. He has Parkinson’s disease, which is what they say makes him like that, but there are lot’s of fighters who became permanently brain damaged from getting hit too much.
P: (after thinking a bit) “I saw Rocky on tv the other day. He still looks pretty good after all his fights.”
D: (after using all my strength to resist commenting, and failing) “You do realize that Sylvester Stallone is an actor who plays a boxer named Rocky in movies, don’t you?”
P: (after a similar long pause during which I could here the gears turning). "Right, right. He’s an actor.”


Two of my favorites are hard to categorize. The first one was during a stressful first week at a new job, where she must have been distracted, because she really doesn’t generally have a problem with arithmetic. Still, it was a classic.

(on the telephone –the first sentence is her question, the second sentence her own answer).
“Quick -- what is three quarters? One half?”

The second one is a homily, given while on vacation in Maine at a restaurant. I must have mentioned Jesus somehow, which led to this succinct biography by her:

“Jesus was born. He lived and he died. And when he was re-erected, he said that he would protect us – in times of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”

There are others, too hard to put in writing as the verbalization or presentation was everything – mixing up Howard Hughes and Howard Cosell, Mussolini as a great conductor, the continent of Ireland, the Earth happily revolving around the moon, and many more which are now lost to us, thanks to my lack of preservation, like so many great works of art or literature consigned to a flames or the bottom of the sea. Still, it’s better to have some of Beethoven’s works, than none.

Reading these again, I know she will be itching to tell you that last week when the refrigerator was delivered and couldn’t get it in the kitchen, that I forgot I had a large back door; that I sometimes put my shirts on inside out; that I got lost three times in one day -- and these things are all true. My good friend who sometimes comments here as “Bear” (you might not be able to tell he’s a friend when you read the comments) would want to tell you that when we were young I once lost my shirt while walking to his house, and did not know what the slit in men’s underwear was for until he and his mother told me when I was 25. All that is true too. But I have a blog, and right now, they don’t. But anyone who wants to make fun of my mushy mind in a comment, is welcome to do so here.

1 comment:

  1. This is a classic. I'm making copies.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .