Don’t look it up just yet. The meaning of malapropist is in my story.
My youngest will have to live with the words the rest of her life. And the fact that the rest of us chuckle nearly every time we pull up to an intersection where pedestrians are in the crosswalk. She was innocent until proven funny. But I’m glad my daughter spoke up, because had Grace remained silent that day, we would have been robbed of this precious misunderstanding.
Those utterance of words that will forever live with us came one day when we were late getting to wherever we were going. Time has erased the destination but not the conversation that ensued as I waited for a man to cross the street so I could proceed with my right hand turn.
“He needs to hurry it up!” my pre-teen puffed, which makes me think we were late getting someplace she wanted to go. “Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to get across right away?”
I shook my head. Maybe I hadn’t heard her right. “Did you say right away?”
Grace scrunched her eyebrows and pointed at the orange light that flashed a countdown. “Yeah. Get across right away before time runs out.”
I giggled. She scowled. “It’s the law, Mom.”
“What?” she said, not sharing in my amusement.
“It’s right OF way, three words,” I explained. “As in the pedestrian has the right OF way and drivers, such as me, have to wait. That’s the law.”
She looked down at her lap where she fidgeted with the strap of her overnight bag, which makes me think we were running late to one of her friend’s for a sleepover.
“Oh,” she said, without emotion.
“Oh, but that’s funny that you thought…”
“It’s not funny, Mom,” she said, motioning toward the clear crosswalk. “Are you going to turn already?’
I put a brake on another guffaw and made the turn.
It’s been two years and it still makes me giggle. Grace sometimes does too, especially since I later shared my own faux pas with her.
Years earlier, upon returning from a trip to Costa Rica, I wore a souvenir cap with the letters CR stitched across the front. Looking around the Denver International Airport I was amazed at all the other people who had obviously also journeyed there because many donned hats and t-shirts with the same letters. Thank goodness, however, I kept that thought to myself because days later it dawned on me that the CR in this state more typically stands for the Colorado Rockies baseball team, not the Central American country.
Grace’s mix-up actually has a noun assigned to it: Malapropism, which Merriam-Webster defines as the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; especially the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context. Sounds right.
The word is derived from a character in a play written 241 years ago! In 1775, Richard Sheridan created Mrs. Malaprop to make the audience laugh with all of her verbal blunders in the The Rivals. She was the original malapropist.
There is no word for my CR acronym gaffe, other than maybe: Confused. No definition is needed. Though laughter always is, so keep those malapropisms coming, right away.