Word swap

I recently was reminded of a word that I totally forgot about. Malapropism. Sounds like a dreadful disease right?  It is a sort of disease of writing if you want to get fanciful. It means to use an incorrect word in place of a word that sounds similar resulting in nonsense. These words that sound similar and often look similar. It’s like swapping words that sound right but are definitely not. They can really gum up the works if spell check or grammar check don’t see a problem because the word is technically spelled correctly.

The funny thing about these word swaps are that we can easily scoot over them not realizing they are wrong. (unless you’re an editor or English major, which I am neither) Part of this is the easy mispronunciation of some of them. No one is perfect and those that think they are perfect are flawed for that belief. So what does a bit of Malapropism look like? Let me show you an extreme example:

Jackson ran his course hand over the bear skin of Valery’s arm. His intent was to illicit shivers from her and the move, like now, was always successful.
“This is tortuous Jackson.” Valery sighed.
“Your game not mine.” He kissed the back of her hand.
“You excepted the challenge.” She wanted romantic and she would get it. “Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw you?”
“No.”
“Hmm. It is a lovely storey. Well I was late for work, rushing to get my coffee and was about to leave when I saw you. I stopped in my tracks, stationery and unable to breathe. Loathe to approach such a stunning beauty. You stood there ordering coffee in that clingy red dress flouting your sexy figure.” Jackson ran his fingers over the palm of her hand. “It was a site I couldn’t tear my eyes from.”
“What a lovely complement.” Valery snuggled closer.
“I came up with a plan to insure you would say yes and a few plausible excuses for being late.”
“You were so bazaar.” Valery covered her mouth and giggled.
“Once I bumbled my way through and asked you out. I waited with baited breath as you smiled slowly, took a pen from your briefcase and scribbled your number on my cup.”
She smiled as his lips traveled in small kisses up her arm.
“Then?”
“I took you out and voila; now you’re all mine.”
“Jackson, that was romantically anti-climatic.”
“I still have the cup.”
Valery flung her arms around his neck peppering him with kisses.

I’d like to think I wouldn’t make those mistakes, but I would never claim to be perfect. There is one in there that I know I’ve mixed up. So how many were there? 15. Here are the corrections highlighted.

Jackson ran his coarse hand over the bare skin of Valery’s arm. His intent was to elicit shivers from her and the move, like now, was always successful.
“This is torturous Jackson.” Valery sighed.
“Your game not mine.” He kissed the back of her hand.
“You accepted the challenge.” She wanted romantic and she would get it. “Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw you?”
“No.”
“Hmm. It is a lovely story. Well I was late for work, rushing to get my coffee and was about to leave when I saw you. I stopped in my tracks, stationary and unable to breathe. Loath to approach such a stunning beauty. You stood there ordering coffee in that clingy red dress flaunting your sexy figure.” Jackson ran his fingers over the palm of her hand. “It was a sight I couldn’t tear my eyes from.”
“What a lovely compliment.” Valery snuggled closer.
“I came up with a plan to ensure you would say yes and a few plausible excuses for being late.”
“You were so bizarre.” Valery covered her mouth and giggled.
“Once I bumbled my way through and asked you out. I waited with bated breath as you smiled slowly, took a pen from your briefcase and scribbled your number on my cup.”
She smiled as his lips traveled in small kisses up her arm.
“Then?”
“I took you out and voila; now you’re all mine.”
“Jackson, that was romantically anti-climactic.”
“I still have the cup.”
Valery flung her arms around his neck peppering him with kisses.

It’s easy to miss one or two from time to time. I don’t beat myself up over it, I resist that temptation. Editing and revision are key to solving this hiccup. Having others revise your work is a good idea too. Sometimes as the one who wedged the offensive word in place, I cant see it as clearly.

Here are the words used in order with their meanings:

Course (A class) – Coarse (Rough)
Bare (Naked) – Bear (An animal)
Illicit (Illegal) – Elicit (To draw out)
Tortuous (Full of twists) – Torturous (Cause suffering)
Except (Not including) – Accept (To agree to)
Storey (Floors in buildings) – Story (A tale)
Stationery (Writing supplies) – Stationary (To be still)
Loathe (Hate) – Loath (reluctant)
Flout (Disregard rules) – Flaunt (Show off)
Site (a place) – Sight (See)
Complement (Goes well with) – Compliment (Praise)
Insure (Compensation life insurance) – Ensure (make certain)
Bazaar (Middle Eastern market) – Bizarre (Weird)
Baited (Fish hook) – Bated (On baited breath)
Climatic (Environment/climate) – Climactic (Climax)

There are many more out there, these are the ones I picked on for the example. Some that might show up may simply be typo’s.

My advice about Malapropisms.
It might be a good idea to make a list of these words(My list above is not complete) and use the “find” feature to see if any got mixed up.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Blood

Sweat

+ Tears

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