Tuesday, February 5

Exasperation and malapropisms

Malapropisms. It's a fun word to say. And it means "the act or habit of misusing words to comic effect". I like malapropisms, especially when they almost make as much sense as the "correct" word.

What may or may not be an example is "flustrated." I first heard this word years ago from a physics professor who was just flustrated about his students' performance in class and on a test. I think this is a word that people have misheard, but I like the idea of combining "flustered" and "frustrated" because I think people often get flustered when they are frustrated. But just recently I heard someone say the word and I'm pretty sure he didn't realize it isn't an actual word. Yet.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was in a business meeting and someone said something like "One of the factors that exasperated the situation. . . ". I managed not to laugh out loud. "Exacerbated" can be a hard word to say and pronounce under pressure. And, to be honest, "exasperated" made a lot of sense in that situation.

So now I find myself listening for malapropisms and trying to figure out if the misuse makes as much sense of the likely intended word.