Posts Tagged ‘Anguished English’

What on earth is a bienapropism??  Richard Lederer says that “The best malapropisms are those that leap across the chasm of absurdity and land on the side of truth” and dubs them bienapropisms, in the spirit of the French roots.  My interpretation?  Bien (good) + appropriate + malapropism = lots of fun!!  Here are some examples, again from Anguished English.  Read ’em and weep.

  1. The cookbook is being compiled.  Please submit your favorite recipe and a short antidote concerning it.
  2. We sold our house and moved into one of those pandemoniums.
  3. To be a leader, you have to develop a spear de corps.
  4. Senators are chosen as committee chairmen on the basis of senility.
  5. The hills were worn down by eroticism.
  6. Apartheid is a pigment of the imagination.
  7. Certainly the pleasures of youth are great, but they are nothing compared to the pleasures of adultery.
  8. The defendant pleaded exterminating circumstances.
  9. Finally, this one that we’ve used for fun in our family for years:  It’s a fragment of your imagination.

Happy Tuesday!

Mrs. Malaprop was a character in 1775 comedy by Richard Sheridan who misused words in a way that created unintentional humor.  From her, we get the word “malapropism”, a particularly enjoyable type of humor.


: 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

  • “Jesus healing those leopards” is an example of malapropism.

One of my favorite books of comedy, Richard Lederer’s Anguished English, has a number of examples, a few of which I’m sharing with you today.  You survived Monday; you deserve some good laughs!  And if you enjoy word play and, as Lederer says in his subtitle, “accidental assaults upon our language”, I urge you to get the book immediately!!  You won’t stop laughing for hours.  But beware.  It’s addictive!


Not long ago I did a post on different amusing signs I’ve seen while traveling (  After our last trip, I have a few more for your viewing, or reading, enjoyment.  A good laugh never goes amiss!  I hope to leave you LOL at least once.  And speaking of laughter, here are a few quotes about laughter just to get things started. (more…)

I’m a grammar nazi (lower case, so as not to imply anything about actual Nazis). I not only admit it, I’m OK with it. It can drive me crazy, but I try very, very hard to confine any outward sign to a sideways glance with widened eyes to a fellow grammar nazi or a partial eye roll.

Anyone enjoying the absurdities of language will enjoy “Anguished English” or anything else by Richard Lederer. We received a copy as a gift years ago and I remember reading aloud from it to my husband as we drove back from Toronto and having tears rolling down my cheeks. Another time a friend and I were in a bookstore, sitting on the floor of one of the aisles, crying with laughter as I read aloud, while other patrons gave us wide berth and a variety of looks, ranging from “What’s up with that?” to “They let all sorts in here!” Good stuff! I particularly enjoy the chapters where he cobbles together a history of the world from grammatically and historically bizarre answers mined from student history tests and classes and also the signs in other countries in fractured English. Delicious.

However, being a grammar nazi can drive me crazy, such as coming across a book today where the intended “they’re” was rendered as “there”. Another recent literary faux pas was in a paragraph where the author talked about a moat, but each time it was spelled “mote”. I couldn’t help myself. I emailed the author and after telling her how much I enjoyed her books, I mentioned that somehow this mistake had crept in and that she might get a better response from the publisher than I. I hope she did as I didn’t get one from her.

Once someone online referred to her “baited” breath, rather disgusting if you were to be around it. I emailed her privately and she was appreciative. But if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “lie” and “lay” misused or that, for example, “a gift was given to him and I” (or something similar) or at the other end of things, “Henry and me went to the store”, I’d be writing this from my villa in Provence overlooking the Mediterranean. Just remember that if you can say “I/me” by itself, you can and should say “She and I/me”. Simple, really.

Then there are the “in” abbreviations or “cute” ways of putting things, although I guess they aren’t, strictly speaking, grammar. Perhaps they would be considered slang, in the tradition of “ain’t.”. For instance, “LOL” is getting old and since I don’t text, I don’t labor under the “less letters = easier” burden. I would never call my husband my “hubster” and not just so he wouldn’t roll his eyes, and “OMG” is unlikely to ever appear in a serious context in my writing…if it can appear in any sort of serious context. For some unknown reason, my current least favorite is this, but… I. Really. Don’t. Know. Why. I will admit to a weakness for expressing incredulity by saying “Really”? And I also admit I can never remember if it should by “Really”? or “Really?” Even a grammar nazi has her moments.