I am much given to malapropisms so it was a pleasure to see a recent production of “The rivals” and once again witness the source of this bizarre linguistic illness. Shakespeare had already played this joke, by the way, with both Mrs Quickly and Dogberry in Much Ado, but Sheridan’s 1775 version sparkles especially with lines like “as headstrong as an Allegory on the banks of the Nile”. I had forgotten that one.
Here is a quick illustration of the characters:
Now an interesting fact: Tolkien played Mrs Malaprop for his old school in Birmingham just after he had gone up to Oxford in Autumn 2011. This is what the St Edward’s school chronicle wrote:
“the performance was a thorough success both artistically and financially (ed note – in my line of work both items very welcome!) J R R Tolkien’s Mrs Malaprop was a real creation, excellent in every way and not least so in make-up….”
While Mrs Malaprop lends her name to the problem, the first use of the word “Malapropism” is Lord Byron’s in 1814 though the OED cites something back in 1630 as well.