#26 – Malapropisms

16 11 2009

At some point on the journey from childhood to adulthood, the social power balance shifts. Among 14 year-olds, the superior social animal is the physical specimen: the best looking girl, the top athlete, the guy who manages to combine the boyish good looks of a young Brad Pitt with the unrestrained violence of Mike Tyson. Those whom they lord it over are the nerds. Those who, bereft of the genetic assistance their socially superior peers are blessed with, are forced to adapt to survive. They get smart.

"Hmmm......learn...."Years later, and the power balance has begun to shift. The physical specimens, lacking the need to cultivate an awareness of life, culture, or basic grammar, have found themselves at a disadvantage in the adult world where brains have suddenly and unexpectedly become paramount. That many of these former jocks and glamours have evolved into today’s bogans is unsurprising. Their response to this social shift, however, is. They fake it. By inserting words that sound similar to something they once overheard on the ABC into ordinary sentences, they believe that they can enhance their social standing.

With hilarious results.

The bogan malapropism has evolved into many variants. First is the effective mispronunciation of a common, and ostensibly appropriate word. Common among these are the two classics “for all intensive purposes” and “please be pacific”. However, these are easily remedied, and display at least a grasp of vocabulary, if not spelling.

One of the classic examples, if not strictly a malapropism, is certainly the most common. It is, literally, the misuse of the word ‘literally’. As in “It was so hot yesterday, I was literally on fire” or “I literally died crossing the road this morning”.

Another is more wonderful. It is the use of words that sound impressive, in the hope of slotting unobtrusively into a sentence. Often incorrect, sometimes they are actually complete antonyms of the intended meaning. For a demonstration, let us look no further than one of the commenters that we have (and dearly love) on Things Bogans Like, ‘Chester Ludlow’, discussing the merits of the site:

“The antithesis of “Stuff White People Like”, only lame.”

The prosecution rests, your honour. Except to close by quoting our very own Hunter McKenzie-Smythe: “It’s the double negative logic loop. He’s trying to double his diss, but unfortunately a byproduct of doing that is that the diss has disastrously collapsed in on itself, resulting in fail.”