Malapropisms

 

I used to work with a guy who had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from a very prestigious university.

When speaking during meetings, he often used the word “incantation” when what he actually meant was “incarnation”. I have no idea why he did this. I don’t think he did it on purpose but the effect on the unwary listener was…hilarious.

On one memorable occasion, he said this: “The product is able to do what you’re describing but it will require a modified incantation.”

Stone. Silence.

Crickets chirping in the distance.

Many worried, sideways glances all around the table.

It was glorious.

Please add your own experiences along these lines in the comments.

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  1. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    He probably picked up the word playing Dungeons and Dragons.

    • #1
  2. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    When I had an Android phone, and voice to text was new, the occasional mistranslation might be very interesting. I dubbed these as “Droidian slips”.

    The one that comes to mind, the one when I coined the term, was when I texted my girlfriend “I am coming up to bed”. Droid sent the message “I am coming up to beg”.

    • #2
  3. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    I’ve known products like that, the only problem was, that nobody knew the words for the incantation.

    • #3
  4. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    My FIL is well known for these around the family.  None of them is terribly funny taken one at a time, but the sum total over the years makes it fun for good-natured ribbing.  He takes it well (usually).  The most memorable one is his more than once referring to Papa Joe’s Pizza.  It’s even funnier because his name is John.

    • #4
  5. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    I had a boss who was so famous for them we kept a list. I may still have it, but it’ll take some digging. One example was: “Solving this problem is like untying the Gregorian Knot.”

    For a few years, I worked with a very nice lady who, when referring to someone else, always said “He’s a strickler for details.”

    We once went to a party at her house, and she introduced her sister to us this way: “This is my sister ____, she’s on Xanax.”

    • #5
  6. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    A fellow this morning on our Nextdoor was complaining about cars parking on the sidewalk so that he was forced to walk in the “right away”.

    • #6
  7. Chris Williamson Member
    Chris Williamson
    @ChrisWilliamson

    My favorites come from bad translating in the head. I once told my girlfriend’s Spanish-speaking mother that her daughter was “embarrassed.” The shock! That same girlfriend handed me some photographs once and asked that I not get my “digital marks” all over them….

    • #7
  8. Chris Williamson Member
    Chris Williamson
    @ChrisWilliamson

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    A fellow this morning on our Nextdoor was complaining about cars parking on the sidewalk so that he was forced to walk in the “right away”.

    Yeah, sort of like “for all intensive purposes.”

    • #8
  9. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    I heard a podcaster say that something “doesn’t pass the mustard test.”

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    In one chamber of commerce I was associated with, there was this guy. He was the sales guy for a tech company. He definitely managed malapropisms, Spoonerisms, and verbal dyslexia in every sentence. He loved big words, but he never got the right big word. I was usually left thinking, “What did he say? What did he try to say?” Usually, I could eventually parse it out. It was more than twenty years ago and I don’t remember any specific examples, but it was a constant thing.

    Sales guys at tech companies seem to be this way often. I knew another who got the words right, but they were always a word salad, and he had no idea what they meant. The big thing at the time was Service-Oriented Architecture. Every deal became SOA. He had no idea what SOA was, but by gum, we were going to do it everywhere. He came up with this great deal with an absolutely beautiful contract, probably copied from elsewhere, since I knew he had no idea what any of it meant. We got the team together based on the contract. The first day we met with the client, they said, “Oh, we don’t want to do anything like that!”

    “Then why did you sign the contract?”

    “Well, we knew we wanted to do business with you, and figured we’d work it out as we go.”

    Yeah, not quite the same, but still one for the record books.

    • #10
  11. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I worked in banking in the 80s. It was my job to travel from office to office helping people discern how and where to do the next inevitable staff reduction. 

    We had a big meeting with all the managers and the topic was the usual – staff reductions. One manager piped up and claimed that she was fortunate as she managed to reduce staff through “nutrition”. 

    I whispered to my boss “things have gone too far when we’ve got managers starving their employees to reduce costs”. 

    • #11
  12. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    OldPhil (View Comment):
    I had a boss who was so famous for them we kept a list. I may still have it, but it’ll take some digging. One example was: “Solving this problem is like untying the Gregorian Knot.”

    OK, folks I found the list. Here are a few of the best ones:

    “How will it look to General Joe Public?”

    “I have to sleep with myself on this.”

    “We’ll have to line up all the ducks that are in the same soup.”

    “People will get up and walk with their feet.”

    “No ifs, buts, or whats.”

    “It’s like the Miracle on 42nd Street.”

    “When you squeeze the sponge, it comes out somewhere else.”

    “I was tinkled pink.”

    “We’re going from the skillet to the frying pan.”

    “We’re keeping our ears to the grindstone.”

    I swear these are all actual quotes.

     

    • #12
  13. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    What I don’t understand is what kind of product adaptation he was going to make by changing the flowers.

    • #13
  14. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    An NCO who worked for me did it frequently.  His greatest hits:

    He saw a movie about the abdominal snowman.

    He accused a subordinate of having arterial motives. 

    He accused another subordinate of abusing subscription drugs. 

    • #14
  15. She Member
    She
    @She

    A salesman I used to work with always referred to upgrades to computer software not as enhancements, but as enchantments. Oddly appropriate in many ways.

    Perhaps he and your guy were related.

    • #15
  16. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Annefy (View Comment):

    I worked in banking in the 80s. It was my job to travel from office to office helping people discern how and where to do the next inevitable staff reduction.

    We had a big meeting with all the managers and the topic was the usual – staff reductions. One manager piped up and claimed that she was fortunate as she managed to reduce staff through “nutrition”.

    I whispered to my boss “things have gone too far when we’ve got managers starving their employees to reduce costs”.

    Well, it seemed to work for Stalin….🤔

    • #16
  17. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    When I was a federal investigator, a bunch of us were sent for training on something new.  As an added bonus, we got a lecture from a Clinton Administration high – up mucky muck in our agency.  The topic had to do with avoiding a big word, when a simple word would do.  Fair enough.  But then she started giving examples.  Some were legitimate, but many were not synonyms. Using them would change the meaning of our reports.  I don’t remember any malaprops, but I pretty quickly just tuned her out.  

    Consider the source, I suppose.  

    • #17
  18. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    “Tow the line” instead of “toe the line”.

    • #18
  19. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Keith Lowery:

    On one memorable occasion, he said this: “The product is able to do what you’re describing but it will require a modified incantation.”

     

    He was just channeling his inner Heinlein “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Perhaps he knew his audience sufficiently well that they were still at the incantation stage of understanding.

    • #19
  20. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery:

    On one memorable occasion, he said this: “The product is able to do what you’re describing but it will require a modified incantation.”

     

    He was just channeling his inner Heinlein “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Nit pick: That was Arthur C. Clarke: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    And then there is Gregory Benford’s variation: Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

    • #20
  21. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Robert A. Heinlein

    “Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.

    But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants “just a few minutes of your time, please—this won’t take long.” Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time—and squawk for more!

    So learn to say No—and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.

    (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.)” ― Robert A. Heinlein

    “Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”  ― Robert A Heinlein

    • #21
  22. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    “Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can look at an old woman, protray her exactly as she is…and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be…and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…no matter what the merciless hours have done to her.” — Robert A. Heinlein

    • #22
  23. hoowitts Coolidge
    hoowitts
    @hoowitts

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):
    “Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you;

    Hee-hee…you said doodie

    • #23
  24. hoowitts Coolidge
    hoowitts
    @hoowitts

    • #24
  25. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    hoowitts (View Comment):

    “Oh Master, does a cow have Buddha nature?”

    “Moo.”

    • #25
  26. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    I used to do malaprops on purpose when I was bored. Several years ago, “feng shui” was all the rage in home and office design. I would annoy upper-middle-class left-leaning sophisticates by calling “feng shui” “foie gras” and vice versa, somehow working one or the other into conversation. (I get bored in those circles and I’m easily entertained.)

    • #26
  27. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    I used to do malaprops on purpose when I was bored. Several years ago, “feng shui” was all the rage in home and office design. I would annoy upper-middle-class left-leaning sophisticates by calling “feng shui” “foie gras” and vice versa, somehow working one or the other into conversation. (I get bored in those circles and I’m easily entertained.)

    Old one: the proper way to pronounce “New Age” is rhymed with “sewage”.

    • #27
  28. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    I heard a podcaster say that something “doesn’t pass the mustard test.”

    Clearly a catsup user.

    • #28
  29. PedroIg Member
    PedroIg
    @PedroIg

    This one I’ve heard TOO many times from a variety of people during discussions of religious belief:  “tenants” of the Faith.  I have so wanted to scream out (but Christian charity kept me from doing so): “IT’S TENETS, NOT TENANTS!!!  No one is renting a space in the Faith!”.  Rant over.

    • #29
  30. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Guy worked for me who had once been a preacher, was now a marketing manager.  Every now and then, he would say start a sentence with “This church should…” or “The problem with this church is…”

    • #30
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