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[After Mrs. Malaprop, , a character in The Rivals, a play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, from malapropos.]
Word History: "She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile" and "He is the very pineapple of politeness" are two of the absurd pronouncements from Mrs. Malaprop that made her name synonymous with ludicrous misuse of language. A character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775), Mrs. Malaprop habitually uses words that are malapropos—that is, inappropriate, as in allegory for alligator and pineapple for pinnacle. She makes some of her most outrageous blunders while boasting of her eloquence: "If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!" For such memorable abuses of the language, Mrs. Malaprop has been enshrined in the words malaprop and malapropism.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.