The top 10 words invented by writers, including “malapropism” – The Guardian

The top 10 words invented by writers | Books | The Guardian.

malapropismOur second post today most certainly relates to our weekly (usually!) “Word Wednesday” feature. But I short-cut things a bit, using this post from the British magazine The Guardian (which does have plenty of good book and language information).

This interesting item on words invented by writers was posted a few weeks ago (Nov.19, 2014) and I saved it for such a time as this.

So, without further introduction, I give you their introduction and then a great word that you will probably recognize. But did you know its origin? I didn’t either! 🙂 (For the rest of the words, visit the article through the link above.)


I have long been interested in words but most specifically in the question of how a coinage makes it into the larger language, especially at a time when the English language seems to have more than enough words to sustain itself. It is one thing to create a new word or catchphrase and quite another for one of your lexical offspring to find acceptance. As John Moore wrote in his book, You English Words: “The odds against a new word surviving must be longer than those against a great oak tree growing from any given acorn.”

I began collecting Authorisms – words, phrases or names created by a writer – more than a decade ago using a number of resources to determine the actual author of a given instance. Most of my word sleuthing took place in the Library of Congress where I consulted many printed and electronic sources.William Shakespearewhose written vocabulary consisted of 17, 245 words included hundreds of authorisms. Some of them, true nonce words, never went further than their appearance in his plays, but others – like bump, hurry, critical, and road — are essential parts of our standard vocabulary today. With many other examples to choose from here are my 10 favourites.

And one of those favorites is this one:

8. Malapropism

An incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance. This eponym originated from the character Mrs Malaprop, in the 1775 play The Rivals by Irish playwright and poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan. As you might expect, Mrs Malaprop is full of amusing mistakes, exclaiming “He’s the very pineapple of success!” and “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile!” The adjective Malaproprian is first used, according to the OED, by George Eliot. “Mr. Lewes is sending what a Malapropian friend once called a ‘missile’ to Sara.”

Published in: on December 10, 2014 at 1:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

Monday Note Quotes

Monday notesThroughout this semester (and previous ones while he served as rector) Prof.Ronald Cammenga at the PRC Seminary has written and sent (via email) to faculty, students, and staff a Monday note each week, summarizing the week’s activities, highlighting birthdays and anniversaries, etc. And for our edification and encouragement he concludes each one with a good quote.

For one of my posts today I put together a string of these quotes – for your benefit as well. We always appreciate these, and I trust you will too.

In his treatment of prayer as “the chief exercise of faith,” John Calvin has this to say: “[T]o know God as the Master and Bestower of all good things, who invites us to request them of him, and still not to go to him and not ask of him—this would be of as little profit as for a man to neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to him.”  “Accordingly,” Calvin goes on to say, “…true faith cannot be indifferent about calling upon God.”  (Institutes 3.20.1; 2:850, the very first page of the second volume of the McNeill/Battles edition.)

“To gather with God’s people in united adoration of God the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.”  Martin Luther.

Describing his exegetical method, Martin Luther once said: “First, I shake the whole (fruit) tree.  Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch, and then each twig.  And, finally, I look under each leaf.”

“Whomever the Lord as adopted and deemed worthy of his fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil.  It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put his own children to a definite test.  Beginning with Christ, his first-born, he follows this plan with all his children.”  (John Calvin, Institutes.)

“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”  Martin Luther.

“Let us consider this settled, that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection.”  John Calvin.

“For neither the light and heat of the sun, nor food and drink, are so necessary to nourish and sustain the present life as the pastoral office is necessary to preserve the church on earth.”  (John Calvin, Institutes, 4.3.2.)

“The strongest inducement to a Christian life comes from our redemption in Christ.”  John Calvin.

“Man with all his shrewdness is as stupid about understanding by himself the mysteries of God, as an ass is incapable of understanding musical harmony.”  John Calvin.

“I have written nothing out of hatred to any one; but I have always faithfully propounded what I esteemed to be for the glory of God.”  John Calvin (towards the end of his life).