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

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Sweat

+ Tears

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Snoopy McSnooperson

 

As people, we are raised with certain values, behaviors that slot us into socially acceptable norms. The simple things that separate us from good and bad. Using these behaviors in characters can be rewarding both good and bad.

Simple values that we take for granted such as privacy. Having that violated can cause fantastic conflict or inner turmoil for a character. It can also give a villain or antagonist opportunity to shine. Writing bad people is fun, fun because they can step outside the social boundaries and wreak havoc on those that don’t. They can do what the average person won’t.

Some examples of people who may violate privacy purposefully or accidentally:

A child who hasn’t learned to respect privacy
A well-meaning parent suspecting child of wrongdoings
A teacher who over steps their boundaries
A boss or coworker who snoops
A friend who feels slighted or isn’t truly a friend
A stranger stealing identity
A stranger who broke into a house/apartment
A friend or family member looking in a private place innocently 

Examples of ways to violate one’s privacy

Read a diary
Rummage through a desk/bedroom/closet/office
Go into a wallet, purse or bag
Break into/invade one’s home/car
look through a medicine cabinet
hack a computer
Peeping through a window, door or via hidden camera
Steal identity/impersonation
Read employee records without permission
walk into the bathroom on someone
Listen in on a conversation, phone-call or voice mail
Enter a room/house/yard/garage without permission
Reading someone’s mail/email/text messages or test results

Good intentions or not, breaching one’s privacy can be disruptive. I use this invasion as a way to foreshadow a character who may stray from the right side or who is already bad, but hiding it. Snooping people are interesting because they so casually break a rule of honor.

Scott’s eyes narrowed as he watched Amber and Dale leave for lunch together; giggling and teasing one another. There was no way she hasn’t had sex with multiple candidates. Why Dale? Scott intended to find out.
He glanced around. Most of the office was empty by now and so he casually made his way to Amber’s desk. He adjusted her chair as he sat and unlocked her computer. Clifton gave him access to the spyware that logged all passwords in the event of sudden termination. The information he was finding very useful these days.
“Alright, Amber what game are you playing?” Scott opened her browser history and quickly found her private email, opened it and started reading.
“Incognito does not mean hidden moron.” Scott mumbled to himself and shook his head as he opened one sent to her mom titled ‘unsure’. He started from the beginning and as he read a sly grin spread across his face.
“Bingo.” Scott quickly copied the conversation and sent it to a dummy email he set up earlier. He authorized another access so she wouldn’t be alerted when he checked her email from another computer.
“She’s not smart enough to figure that out anyway.” Scott set her computer back to how she left it and went back to his office to do some research. 

Unless two people are in cahoots on a privacy offense, an infringement is likely a solitary activity. What I like to do in this sort of scenario is leave a bit of mystery and have the perpetrator make a mistake (Yes Scott made one). One that may or may not be noticed later on. What I won’t do is have someone magically witness it without making that known at the time of the incident. There’s not much worse than the surprise revelation to the reader that Rachael witnessed the whole thing but it wasn’t mentioned until later. “Hey, I saw Scott on your computer yesterday.” Ugh. Incidentally having someone caught red-handed is also an abundantly wealthy source of drama. Just don’t use the cliché term “Red-handed”.

My advice about privacy and invading it.
It’s such a successful way to subtlety show characters true to nature, whether they resist the urge to peek at an email left open or blatantly snoop to read it, you can let the reader develop emotions toward the character.

-Sheryl

A post or two from a while ago.

Take charge already!
The secret’s out

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