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Malapropisms, mondegreens, eggcorns, spoonerisms and others!

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My interest in these funny expressions dates back to a facebook post in the "Way with Words" group.  It was the familiar "a such-and-such walks into a bar" meme, but with various parts of speech. 

Here it is, followed by some choice comments:

A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.
A bar was walked into by the passive voice.
An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.
Two quotation marks walk into a "bar".
A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.
Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.
A question mark walks into a bar?
A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.
Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Get out -- we don't serve your type."
A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.
Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.
A synonym strolls into a tavern.
At the end of the day, a cliche walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.
A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.
Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapses to the bar floor.
A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.
An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.
The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.
A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.
A dyslexic walks into a bra.
A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.
An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.
A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.
A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.
A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.

14 Comments (original to the above post)
Joey Brode
An alliteration bops into a bar begging bitterly for better booze.
Lynne Steele Terzis
A homophone walks into a barre ...
Joey Brode
A double negative couldn't not walk into a bar.
Paul Southendmd
An ellipsis walks into a bar...
Paul Southendmd
Walk into a bar, an anastrophe did. (not mine, sounds like Yoda)
Paul Southendmd
A spoonerism balked into a war. (also not mine, but pretty good)
Paul Southendmd
A mondegreen walks into a bar on karaoke night and starts singing "Bohemian Rap City".
Paul Southendmd
An eggcorn walks into a bar, sees a man choking, and performs the Heimlich remover.
Joey Brode
Oy. So what's the difference between an eggcorn and a mondegreen??? this is getting very sophisticated!
Paul Southendmd
A mondegreen is essentially a mis-hearing of a phrase/lyrics, etc. and is usually nonsensical ("laid him on the green" becomes "Lady Mondegreen"). An eggcorn is a mis-hearing that is plausible (like Old-Timer's for Alzheimer's).
Paul Southendmd
There's also the "hind-lick maneuver".
Paul Southendmd
A girl walks into a bar and asks for a double entendre so the bar man gave her one.
Paul Southendmd
A Bostonian sheep walks into a baa.
Lynne Steele Terzis
A homonym passes the bar ...

And a new one:
A synecdoche hot foots it into a bar to give the bartender a hand.

I used to think malapropisms was the umbrella term, but it has its own meaning. 

Let's parse them out a bit.  (from Merriam-Webster)


An eggcorn is a word or phrase that sounds like another word or phrase and is sometimes mistakenly used in place of the latter in a way that seems logical or plausible.

An example might be a writer describing an order to seize and desist rather than the proper term cease and desist, the occasional instance of mixmash instead of mishmash, or cold slaw instead of coleslaw, or someone mishearing the word scapegoat as escape goat.

In these instances the logic comes usually from replacing an unfamiliar word or part with one that might be more familiar. Cease and desist is a legal command that might make one think of having something taken away (seized); mishmash has the notion of a confusing mixture in its definition; and coleslaw invites the interpretation cold slaw since it is served cold.

The term eggcorn--itself an alteration of acorn--is a recent invention (2003), coined by the linguist Geoffrey Pullum to describe the phenomenon.



Malapropisms have a lot in common with eggcorns?they involve one word being improperly used in place of another. In contrast to an eggcorn, however, there isn?t much logic behind a malapropism; it usually results in nothing more than a ridiculous or nonsensical expression.

The term derives from Mrs. Malaprop, the name of a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775). The character, a society widow, is noted for using words ineptly for humorous effect, as when she calls a gentleman "the very pineapple" rather than "pinnacle" of politeness, and apologizes for having little "affluence" rather than "influence" over her niece. Frequently, malapropisms involve words of elevated vocabulary.

Mrs. Malaprop's name resembles the French phrase mal a propos, which means "out of place" or "unsuitable". The term malapropism began appearing in English texts in the 19th century.


Archie Bunker, a character in the American TV sitcom All in the Family, used malapropisms frequently: he refers, for example, to "off-the-docks Jews" (Orthodox Jews) and the "Women's Lubrication Movement" (rather than Liberation). Intending to refer to the medical specialized field of gynecology and to specialist in that field as a gynecologist, he would mispronounce the words as "groinecology" and "groinecologist."

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott once claimed that no one "is the suppository of all wisdom" (i.e., repository or depository). Similarly, as reported in New Scientist, an office worker had described a colleague as "a vast suppository of information". The worker then apologised for his "Miss-Marple-ism" (i.e., malapropism). New Scientist noted this as possibly the first time anyone had uttered a malapropism for the word malapropism itself.

Marjorie Taylor Greene uses malapropisms in both communications directed at her base as well as when she communicates with the rest of the world, including references to: "peach tree dish" (petri dish), "gazpacho police," (gestapo), and "fragrantly violated..." (flagrantly), among others.

Violins on television:


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