Mrs Malaprop



  • A character in Sheridan's play The Rivals (1774).Named from the French mal à propos, meaning not to thepurpose, she became one of the most memorable figures in British theaterthrough her comical misuse of language:
    If I reprehend anything in this world, it is the use of myoracular tongue and a nice derangement of epitaphs.

    Celebrated malapropisms, as they came to be called, include:

    Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory!
    He is the very pineapple of politeness

    and the famous solecism:

    as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.

    She may have been suggested by a similar character in HenryFielding's novel Joseph Andrews (1742), a gentlewoman calledMrs Slipslop, who is described as a "mighty affecter of hardwords", or possibly by Mrs Heidelberg in Colman and Garrick'sThe Clandestine Marriage (1766). Both characters hark backto an equally ponderous figure Dogberry, the Constable ofthe Watch in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (c.1598).