Today’s post is a venture into malapropism, the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of a similar sound. Or put another way, verbal blunders.
The word originates from the French term ‘mal a propos’ meaning inappropriate. In his 1775 play, The Rivals, Sheridan cleverly called one of his character’s Mrs Malaprop who constantly committed verbal blunders.
When a word is misused, it can either cause the speaker intense embarrassment – I confess, I once uttered orgasm when what I meant to say was organism – or have an amusing effect. Or both.
One such slip of the tongue, to dance the flamingo, is the inspiration for this story.
Oh, To Dance the Flamingo!
On entering the busy cafe, Merle bustled her way to an empty corner table. She shoved her bulging shopping bags into the corner and plonked her lumpish body on a chair. Merle squinted through her myopic glasses to read the day’s specials whilst waiting for her friend Trudy.
A flowing, flowery-flash, flounces passed the window. Trudy had arrived. She opened the door. A furrowed frown etched her thin face as she gazed around the cafe. Merle half stood and waved. “Over here, Trudy.”
Trudy swiftly wove her way between the crowded tables, her bangles jingling-jangling. “Been shopping, Merle?” she said, tilting her head towards the bags nestled in the corner.
Merle smiled, “Bargain day at the Salivation Army store.”
Trudy thought a moment. “Ah ha. Shall we order?”
They ordered their food at the counter, then returned to the corner table. Trudy placed the tray on the table and unloaded the plates of food and coffees.
“Thank you, dear.” Merle took off her glasses and shoved them into one of her many bags.
Trudy sat down. “How did your interview for the cleaning job go?”
“Not great. The bloke who interviewed me wore one of those gold pendulums round his neck like some mafia hit-man, and he was a bit of a smart Alec.”
“How so?” Trudy rubbed the silver stud in her left nostril.
“When I told him that my punctuation was very good, he says to me, ‘It’s a cleaning job, Mrs Greaves. How good your grammar is, is of no concern to us.’ Then he smirked, leant across his desk and spoke to me like I was the half-wit, ‘Are-you-always-on-time?’”
Merle brushed her mop of thick, wavy hair from her face. “I spoke slowly back to him, ‘I-just-told-you-I-am-never-late.’”
“Good for you, Merle. That’d put him in his place.” Trudy chortled.
“Then real cocky, swinging back on his swivel chair, he asks ‘how do you work as a team member?’ I am a cooperative team member, I say. Not one to create dysentery amongst my co-workers.” Merle slapped the table. “Well, the fool nearly fell backwards on his God-damn swivel chair, his stupid pendulum swung in the air and flicked him in his eye.”
Trudy laughed gleefully. Then took a sip her coffee and bit into her crab roll.
“I’ve switched to decapitated coffee.” Merle tapped her chest. “High blood pressure. Doctors advice.”
Trudy coughed, choking on her crab roll. “The doctor knows best, I guess.” She spluttered, then coughed some more.
“Oh, Trudy, that cough does not sound good.” Merle indicated Trudy’s half-eaten crab roll. “Me, I don’t eat crab meat or any crushed Asian for that matter. Seafood makes me come out in a nasty rash.”
“It’s just the dressing. A bit spicy.”
“And how is your Tom? Still grumbling about your neighbours over the fence?”
“Oh yes. Constantly whinging about them,” Trudy sighed heavily. “He’s convinced they spy on us.”
“But you don’t agree? You think it is just a pigment of his imagination?”
“Hmmm, right, yes. Something like that.” Trudy gulped the remainder of her coffee.
“Any plans for the weekend, Merle?”
Merle raised her arms and castanet-clicked her fingers.“Oh yes. On Friday evening, my daughter and I are beginning Spanish dancing lessons. I’ve always wanted to dance the flamingo!”
This short, short story is based on an amusing tale a person told during a stroll along a beach with a bunch of walkers. When I heard the tale, I knew it needed further telling.
Returning from my brisk beach walk, I spot Connie in her garden dabbling with her Delphinium. Her golden-orange halo of crazy curls bob rhythmically as she clips and snips.
“Oh Connie,” I call to her, touching my own hair. “Love the do,”
Straightening up, she lovingly caresses her wild mop, “My weekly shampoo and blow-job courtesy of Alfonso.”
I stifle a giggle. Did I hear her correctly?
“Such devoted service, such sensual, subtle hands,” she beams. “His sugary-sweet voice… .” a faraway look flickers across her face.
Hmmm, I think, I need a rendezvous with Alfonso.
Alfonso, wherefore art thou!