Malapropisms are defined as ‘usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phraseespecially : the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context’. They’re common in Jamaica because many people learn ‘English’ orally and so miss the nasty nuances of the written language that come from words which sound alike but are spelt differently and have different meanings. Add that Patois, as spoken by most Jamaicans, doesn’t have the same codified base as standard English.
So, it’s not just the misuse of a word, but it really ought have humourous content. My favourite is when a caddy at Constant Spring Golf Club told me that I “need to hit aprofessional” [provisional] ball (because it’s in case the previous shot is lost or out of bounds). Now, in general, it’s understandable that a big word like provisional doesn’t just drop into someone’s vocabulary. As golf has professionals and amateurs, then the likely reference must be something related.
That said, I’m deliberately not going to cite specific examples because then some hawk could go and search and locate the origin and shame, which is not my intent. I’ve already extracted my humourous (or is it humerus?) pound of flesh. I had a nice little sparring with an MP this week, and there’s another who’s often in for a ribbing (or a ribbon, because some are priceless). A couple of senators are also on my radar, and the fact that they were/are academics makes the joking with them a little more poignant. There’s a constituency caretaker on whom I’m keeping a close eye as she is offering some tasty morsels. 😉
But, you have to excuse me because I was good at English at school and have always loved word play—I love cryptic crosswords and my oral speciality is puns, and I’ve never resisted one, when I’ve found it. Too good to ‘waist’ (waste) some may say Lots of people make common mistakes by being able to know which of to/too/two or lightning/lightening or vein/vain/vane is the right one to use and that can be amusing. Happily, this week, Usain Bolt publicized the name of his new daughter, Olympia Lightning Bolt.
I feel for Usain, because my daughter’s each have names that are less common, and even when they are spelt out many times, they come back garbled.
Now, a caveat is that modern technology, in trying to help has made those who don’t know unable to learn and help themselves. Spellcheck is the bane of many writers. An added layer of editing now is to really crawl over what Spellcheck might have messed up.
I watched a good movie last week, Official Secrets, where the perceived authenticity of a cited document revolved around the spelling of ‘favourable’ (British) and ‘favorable’ (American), and it was because an assistant working at the newspaper put the document through Spellcheck before it was published. Fortunately, the journalist had the original and could confirm the spelling.
Now, it’s easy to do the grammar ‘shaming’ thing and cite the many instances that I see daily. I try to point out with a 🙂 that the wrong terms or words are being used, but some are sensitive to the point of hostility to having such things pointed out. That’s fine. I’m also of the view that, often the context is clear; however, when it’s not, it may be worth focusing on what and why the mistake gets made, and often repeated. That’s when the malapropism starts to come into view.
It’s hard to unlearn stuff, so I cannot fathom why they’re/their/there give people trouble and why once it’s been highlighted, the problem persists—except because of Spellcheck. I guess, some people are just cussed (not cursed, or maybe, they are 🙂 ) I am lost over to/too/two; maybe, also tutu, in some cases, but hopefully Desmond hasn’t had to deal with that too much. Capitalization helps avoiding some mistakes, but in the modern age of text messaging, such grammar niceties get passed over.
In Jamaica, I can get tree/three/tri-, because of how Patois deals with ‘h’. But, my French friends squirm when they see the ‘tree colour’ flying high on the mast. 🙂
On the more obscure end of the scale, we have bow/bough (tree limb) and also how bow (ribbon) and bow (hunting) and bow (mark of respect) get confused in writing and in speech. A few I’ve seen have made me say ‘Bow wow!’.
Whether (if)/whither (direction)/weather (climate)/wither (dying) give some of the best jokes. Whether I will wither and die in this weather depends on whither I was heading.
Fear/fair (adjective, adverb, noun, verb)/fare flummox many not least because fair can be so many things–on a fair day the fair were at the fair. Fare is usually simply the cost of travel, so many may not know that it means ‘how you’re doing’. Fear is clear, except the way Jamaicans crush the vowels: I fear the fare isn’t fair.
That’s really a good one or few to leave things, because the list is almost endless. I may have to start noting them better as I spot them.
Your/you’re/yore gave me a great laugh the other day when I read ‘In days of your…’. Yore welcome to that!