Thirty Malapropisms


Really Difficult Puzzles


Ed. Note: every month, the Daily features a puzzle by Dylan Hicks. The first list of correct answers wins a year’s subscription to The Paris Review and a copy of Dylan’s new novel, Amateurs. (In the event that no one can get every answer, the list with the most correct responses will win.) Send an e-mail with your answers to [email protected]The deadline is Thursday, May 26, at noon EST, when we’ll post the answers. Good luck!

Mrs. Malaprop is the pompous aunt in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 comedy, The Rivals, and the eponym for the word malapropism. As one of her relations puts it in the play, she’s known for her use of “words so ingeniously misapplied, without being mispronounced.” Repeatedly and obliviously, she reaches for a high-flown word but comes out with a similar sounding, contextually nonsensical or ludicrous one—appellation, for example, becomes compilationalligator morphs into allegory.

Each sentence in this month’s puzzle contains a malapropism. Your task is to identify the misapplied and intended words. As in The Rivals, the confused words are occasionally out-and-out rhymes, but most are more subtly alike in sound. For illustration, we’ll quote two of Mrs. Malaprop’s lines:

  1. But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this fellow—to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.
  2. He is the very pine-apple of politeness.

Were those quotations part of our puzzle, correct answers would read something like this:

  1. Illiterate should be obliterate.
  2. Pine-apple should be pinnacle.

Or you might right “illiterate = obliterate,” or “Not ‘pine-apple, you silly, ‘pinnacle!’ ”—unlike Alex Trebek, we’re not sticklers about how you phrase your answers, though you do need to include both words in each answer. As always, the first person to submit a complete set of correct answers—or, in the event that no one achieves that, the person who submits the most correct answers—wins a free Paris Review conscription. 

  1. Though most drawn to the hard sciences, Hector studied poetry as an undergraduate and quickly learned to distinguish an anapest from a fractal.
  2. We were offered bratwursts or nothing, a classic Hobbesian choice.
  3. On “All Blues,” Miles Davis employs the Charmin mute to beautifully moody effect.
  4. Cordelia is a paragon of goodness and finial loyalty.
  5. The officers surrounded the square in a great show of consubstantial force.
  6. Resistant to change, Ethyl still used the Dobie Gillis system for transliterating Chinese.
  7. Rodin’s The Kiss is a famous example of sculptural oscillation.
  8. Some sailors complained of side effects when shipbuilders began using cortisone as a floor covering.
  9. At her retirement party, Dr. Mounir thought of Wallace Stevens’s phrase, “valetudinary echoings.”
  10. The waiter’s lapel pin featured a tiny portrait of Sayid Maxamed Cabdille Xasan, an expression of sommelier pride.
  11. Feeling aggressive, the Crescent City grandmaster opened with the Queen’s Gumbo.
  12. Never troubled by five o’clock shadow, Jimmy’s skin was still gibbous and youthful well into his forties.
  13. Just then a house finch elated on the lectern.
  14. Hana cherished an inherited Netscape from the Edo period.
  15. In the stockroom, Alex was a remarkably productive worker, a regular Stalagmite, and his industriousness was rewarded.
  16. The Hawaiian Islands are ideal for the study of ignoramus rocks.
  17. Whenever he felt signs of an oncoming cold, Bill stepped into his organ box.
  18. The commencement address began humorously but built to a suitably horticultural peroration.
  19. We tried to negotiate with Senator McConnell, but he remained intransitive.
  20. Though she was most proficient on guitar, Rosa was also a gifted lutefisk.
  21. The Airbnb guests were querulous regarding the cloaca comforter.
  22. Lillian and Louis set out on their road trip with an ample vibraculum.
  23. A handsome and distinguished infantryman, Nigel was a member of the Grenadine Guards.
  24. The question, ruled the judge, fell outside the statute’s purveyor.
  25. When evaluating risk, investors often look at the Chicago Board Options Exchange Fallibility Index, a measure drawn on options prices for the next thirty days.
  26. Talk turned to depth psychology, but the phrase laminal space never escaped the tip of Kayla’s tongue.
  27. Making it past the imposing but venal sentry requires a small sop to Serbia.
  28. The actor born Betty Joan Perske adopted a metronomic surname.
  29. Her delicate face revealed all the linemen of piety and grace.
  30. The match went to five sets, leading to soreness in Björn’s quadrupeds.

Dylan Hicks is a writer and musician. His second novel, Amateurs, is out this month from Coffee House Press.