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Front Page - Friday, March 11, 2016

Malaprop revisitation: Part 2

I Swear

Vic Fleming

A correspondent wrote that strategerie has been a favorite word in her family ever since some world leader uttered it a few years back. She listed some other items that were attributed to the same guy:

My education message will resignate among all parents

A tax cut is one of the anecdotes to coming out of an economic illness.

[I]t requires an expenditure of money commiserate with keeping a promise to our troops.

We’ve been discussing the malapropism—unintentional misuse of a word brought on by confusion with one of similar sound or appearance in print. Which leads to Mo Udall’s 1988 memoir, Too Funny To Be President.

Udall died in 1998. He was an Arizona congressman for 30 years. He was well known for his sense of humor. In 1976 he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination. A noted commentator said he was “too funny to be president.”

In chapter 12 Mo told of verbal miscues, beginning with one that I suspect is more myth than history: 

Senator, if we don’t stop shearing the wool off the goose that lays the golden egg, we are going to pump the well dry.

What the people of this state deserve is clean, fresh, wholesome, pasteurized milk. And I’m going to the state house and take the bull by the horns until we get it.

He’s still green behind the ears. 

This is not time to pull the rug out in the middle of the stream.

The above are more aptly termed mixed metaphors. In their way, they’re as funny as malapropisms. The true malapropper, however, does not realize the error as it is said. And it’s usually only one word or phrase. 

Mo’s 12th chapter goes on. A friend of his referred to Shanghai Jack and Mousey Tongue of Indigo China. Another said that Lincoln “was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands.” And then there are these:

This bill goes to the heart of the moral fiber of human anatomy.

I’m watching everything you do with a fine-toothed comb.

Another reader who preferred to remain nameless submitted a list of malapropos “gathered from the Internet”:

Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion. 

A rolling stone gathers no moths. 

Let’s get down to brass roots. 

Their father was some kind of civil serpent. 

The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city

Listen to the blabbing brook.

This is unparalyzed in the state’s history.

The guy has channel vision.

His career has really plummeted to the top.

He’s going up and down like a metronome.

He’s on 90 ... 10 away from that mythical figure.

Unless somebody can pull a miracle out of the fire.

He was a man of great statue.

If Gower had stopped that [ball] he would have decapitated his hand. 

A great deal of the material from this and last week’s columns were borrowed forward from columns originally published in 2004. That’s how come the word revisitation was used in the titles.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.