New Word #10 : Malaprop

malaprop: the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, “dance a flamingo ” (instead of flamenco).

homophone: two or more words that sound alike, but have different meanings or spellings.

I encountered this word in Luisa’s post here. I’ve made mistakes like a malaprop and used homophones incorrectly, often unintentionally but usually not with any amusing effect, at least not to me. I am not talking about “lose and loose”, “lie and lay”, “hang and hung and hanged”, which are usual confusion of the choice in language tests. Instead, I am talking about words that really confuse me when I use and misuse them.

Prerogative And Pejorative: I don’t know how these two can be confused since they are not very similar. Only the beginning letter and the last five letters are the same. However for some unknown reasons, I’ve had a hard time telling them apart.

prerogative: a right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual or class.

pejorative: a word expressing contempt or disapproval.

Disassemble And Dissemble: This pair is easy but still I actually made mistakes more than once. I like the word “dissemble” since it is such a necessity for politeness sake.

disassemble: take (something) apart. It is the opposite of assemble.

dissemble: conceal one’s true motives, feelings, or beliefs.

Disprove And Disapprove: This is another easy pair to understand, but I still made mistakes. It is very easy to say “I disprove something” while what you actually means is “I disapprove something.”

disprove: prove that (something) is false.

disapprove: have or express an unfavorable opinion about something.

The Confusing Quad: Extant, Extent, Extend, And Distend

extant: (especially of a document) still in existence; surviving.

extent: the degree to which something has spread; the size or scale of something.

extend: cause to cover a larger area; make longer or wider.

distend: swell or cause to swell by pressure from inside.

The Confusing Group. This is the most confusing of all since it is a large group and many of the words in this group are commonly used. It took me a while to get used to the jarring opposition between affection and affectation, and the different usage between effect and affect and afford. Thankfully effete is not often mentioned and we don’t need to consider it much. Be careful with “affected” since it can be the past perfect of “affect” or it can be a negative word about somebody being pretentious.

affect: have an effect on; make a difference to.

affection: a gentle feeling of fondness or liking.

affectionate: readily feeling or showing fondness or tenderness.

affectation: behavior, speech, or writing that is artificial and designed to impress.

affected: artificial, pretentious, and designed to impress.

effect: a change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

affective: relating to, arising from, or influencing feelings or emotions

effective: successful in producing a desired or intended result.

effort: a vigorous or determined attempt.

afford: have enough money to pay for.

effete: (of a person) affected, overrefined, and ineffectual.

More groups: There are more groups like the above. Just taking a glimpse at my notebook, I can see groups like “draw, drew, drawn, drown, drowsy”, “pert, perk, perm, perv”, “snort, snore, snout, snoot, snooty”, “skitter, skittle, skit, skid, skirt”, but my head starts to spin and I have to stop here today.

Let me know if you’ve ever encountered such a pair or such a group of words.

37 thoughts on “New Word #10 : Malaprop

        1. I love black and white, like Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. They are brilliant. There used to be free episodes on youtube, but now there are no more. What a pity.

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  1. Love this post. Confess to being guilty too! The word dissemble I used once in a piece instead of disassemble..luckily I realized my gaffe and edited it later. Somehow dissemble sounds so perfect for a state of disassembling but can’t edit the English dictionary can we haha.
    The commonest mistake I’ve noted is people in SM etc mixing up use of lose and loose..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a great aunt whose malapropisms were mostly of the amusing variety – eg “trombonis” for “thrombosis” – or she would say that somebody was planning to build a “conservative” at the back of their house.

    There was a radio comedy show in the UK in the 1940s I think (before my time anyway) in which one of the characters would say things like: “stop casting nasturtiums at me!” (casting aspersions) and “I resemble that remark!” (resent)

    Another pair is “flout” and “flaunt”. People often wrongly talk about “flaunting convention” or “flaunting the rules”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. Your aunt is funny, isn’t she? I am not sure what “conservative” is supposed to replace. Is it “conservatory”?
      Wow, I don’t know “aspersion” and have to look it up. LOL.
      Thank you. You are absolutely right. “Flout” and “Flaunt” confuse the hell out of me. Also adding to the mix is the pair “tout”, “taunt”. LOL. It’s a mess in my head.

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      1. Thanks for setting me thinking!

        Yes – she meant to say “conservatory”. It’s funny that “flout”, “flaunt”, “tout” and “taunt” all have vaguely related meanings – they’re all to do with showiness or behaving unconventionally.

        I’ve only ever heard “aspersions” used in the phrase “casting aspersions”. I wouldn’t be confident about using it in any other way!

        Purely by chance I’ve just seen this joke posted on Twitter:

        “Somebody said that they’d just made a batch of synonym buns. I asked him if they were the kind that grammar used to make. Now he’s blocked me.”


        1. Just thought of another really old joke from when I was at school.

          A woman walks into a butcher’s shop. Woman: “Have you got any kidleys?” Butcher: “Surely you mean kidneys madam?” Woman (angrily): “I said kidleys, diddle I?”

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I wonder if this is called lisp of certain sort. Some people just have trouble pronouncing certain things. It’s just normal. Some tongues are more nimble, some are less so. LOL.

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  3. It is difficult to know which word to choose sometimes and there are a lot of native speakers who make malaprops unwittingly or even uncaringly. For affect and effect, affect is usually a verb, and it means to impact or change. Effect is usually a noun, an effect is the result of a change.

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    1. I am affected by all these comments and the effect is I feel connected and acknowledged. LOL. Thank you and all the others who have contributed the thoughts and opinions and care. 😊😉👍

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Affect and effect are probably the only words in English that confuse me sometime. I see people in the internet confuse “your and you’re” and “their, there, and they’re”.

    Korean has a few malapropisms that I still struggle with. Thai, even more so.

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    1. That’s true. Those are very easy to be confused about. Once somebody tells me that she often confuses it’s and its. I guess every language has malaprops or malapropisms, some more than others. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reading and writing Korean definitely easier. My Thai students were able to pick up the written language pretty easily. A lot of the words (say 40%) is very similar to Mandarin Chinese, with 55% being native Korean and 5% English (at least in the South Korea). I don’t know much about Mongolian, I just listened to a video of basic phrases and I didn’t recognize any words. I also watched a video on Manchurian, that is similar to Mongolian.

        According to wikipedia, I had no idea Manchurian is highly endangered. That feels weird to me since that was the language of the last imperial dynasty of China. With so many other dialects well preserved in remote areas, I would think Manchurian would the be most spoken at least in the Northeast.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, you pointed out one of the funniest parts of human history–extinction caused by success. Manchurian’s military success in establishing an empire has caused their own cultural and language decline. LOL. I think probably only several hundred people still speak Manchurian right now.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Wow, so my estimate of several hundred are too high. LOL. Nobody is using it anymore and there are 10 million Manchurian people. I met several myself and none of them speak a word of Manchurian language.

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