Mrs Malaprop Lives On
She may never die, with the way spell checkers make malapropisms easy to perpetuate. And perpetrate.
Yes, I’ve been trawling fanfic archives again. And there are so many malapropisms, ranging from hilariously bad to “oh gawd, not that one again”. Tis truly remarkable how often in fanfic a character in great pain “withers”. I’m fairly sure the intended word is “writhes”, but somehow the correct word never seems to find its way to the file. Methinks the spell check sees the collection of letters and picks the one that makes the most sense to it – and as anyone who’s ever tried to figure out why in heck the predictive word algorithm chose that word would know, computer algorithms have a long way to go before they can come close to human interaction.
That’s probably the single most common use of the wrong word I’ve seen in fanfic once you move past the obvious there/their/they’re type issues. Misplaced grammar and stray articles are par for the course, of course, as are typos, but then I don’t expect heavily proofed works on fanfic sites.
There are of course the full range from sublime to “OMG KILL IT WITH FIRE!”, and anyone trawling fanfic will find examples of covering the entire range. I’ve yet to be courageous enough to attempt the Harry Potter fanfic with a blurb announcing that Harry has a “surprised creature inheritance”. I keep wondering whether it’s better to inherit a surprised creature than one that isn’t surprised. And how this would differ from what the author apparently intended, namely Harry Potter being surprised to discover he’s not entirely human.
Story blurbs are a really good way to find the things you’d rather not touch with a ten foot bargepole. I generally avoid anything that’s got obvious spelling and grammar errors – the kind that can’t be mistaken for typos or spellcheck artifacts without a lot of alcohol and possibly demonic influence as well. Another important sign of potential awfulness is any version of “I suck at summaries but this is really good, I promise”. I’ve yet to see one that met the promise.
Be wary of thy spellcheck function, and take care with the word suggestion feature lest they lead you into malapropism.
That said, I shall leave you with the most hilarious malapropism I ever encountered. In discussing the joys of plant ownership, “there’s nothing better for you than a nice healthy orgasm”.