My dear Dad is the King of Malaprops. He substitutes words for others that leave us scratching our heads so much we need dandruff shampoo.
For instance, I had a friend in high school who was extremely skinny. My dad asked, “Is she an aphrodisiac?” It took me a minute to realize he meant “anorexic.” I couldn’t really imagine my friend as an oyster or dark chocolate. Or eating them for that matter.
One night in the early 80s, we watched the Tonight Show. Donna Summer sang, “Hard for the Money.” My dad looked up from the paper and said, “Isn’t she on the show, Three Different Strokes?”
He confused Donna Summer with Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company and Donna Summer’s African-American heritage with Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges on Different Strokes. I think he set a record for reaching that night. I had to make a flow chart to follow that pattern of logic.
However, I’m not one to judge. Malapropism is definitely genetic. I suffer from the disease too. Shows like Cannon and Barnaby Jones always played on our TV in the seventies. Remember the Miranda rights they read on those shows? When I was little I thought the line, “Anything you say can and will be used against you,” meant “Anything you say CANNON will be used against you.”
So I envisioned criminals blown away by cannon balls if they said anything, anything at all. I imagined anyone charged with a crime lined up in a big courtyard in front of a cannon if they dared to speak.
Also, in the seventies there was a great song by Johnny Nash called, “I Can See Clearly Now.” He sang, “I can see all the obstacles in my way.” I thought he said “Popsicles” instead of obstacles. And I wondered where he could get caught up in Popsicles and how fast could I get there?
Unfortunately, malapropism passes on to the youngest of generations. Fortunately, my daughter catches herself. One of her assignments for school was to create a diorama. She asked, “What if a diorama was diarrhea? I don’t think they’d want me to bring it to school.”
But it wouldn’t be as funny as a diorama with a cannon and a line full of criminals afraid to talk.