First of all, do you know what a “malapropism” is? It’s the misuse of a word, often similar in sound to the apropos word, which changes the meaning of the sentence to something ridiculous. See what I did there? I used the word “apropos,” which means “appropriate” or “pertinent.” The prefix “mal-” means “bad, wrong, or ill;” add it to “apropos” and you get that a malapropism is a wrong usage of a word.
I don’t know if I’ll have one of these every week, but when I do, it’s Malapropism Monday! For our first installment, I’d like to discuss one that drives me nuts, and I see it everywhere — especially on the internet! I think when people are writing, they defiantly mean well, but…
Did you catch it? Yes, today’s malapropism is using “defiantly” when “definitely” should be used! To tell the difference, think about the root verb “defiantly” comes from: defy. If you do something defiantly, you’re defying someone or something. If you can’t name the person or entity being defied, you probably meant to use “definitely.” I definitely want everyone to start using these two words correctly! I will defiantly blog against the misuse of “defiantly.” Get it?
As with many of the errors I find, this will not be caught by a spell checker if “defiantly” is spelled correctly but used wrong. I doubt even a grammar checker would catch it, either, since both words are adverbs. You just have to know the difference, or get help from someone who does!
Sentence 1: I’m definitely going to scream the next time I see this mistake.
Sentence 2: I’m defiantly going to scream the next time I see this mistake.
Can you tell the difference? Both are correct sentences, but they have different meanings. Sentence 1 means I will certainly scream, while the second sentence means I will rebel against the forces of ignorance by screaming — probably not effective, but it’s possible to do.
I found this page with more examples: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/10/definitely-versus-defiantly-difference/.
So that’s the first edition of Malapropism Monday. Do you have any more examples of this one? Any other malapropisms you’d like to see discussed here?
rohoGames · February 6, 2017 at 11:07 pm
Do people use “literally” as a malapropism also?
leethelinguist · February 7, 2017 at 12:32 pm
“Literally” has become one of those words that, while at times retaining its original meaning, has also come to mean the opposite of what it originally meant. It’s now often used to mean “figuratively,” the opposite of “literally.” I think people use it simply when they want to emphasize the seriousness of what they’re saying, without thinking about the correctness of the word. Here’s an article I found on the topic: http://archive.boston.com/lifestyle/articles/2011/07/19/literally_the_most_misused_word/.
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