A malapropism – the incorrect use of a word that sounds the same as the intended word – needs to be avoided. Embarrassment and humour go hand in hand when a malapropism occurs. In the music business, one of the most well-known examples is a line from a song called ‘Lucille’ by the American singer-songwriter, Kenny Rogers. ‘Four hungry children…’ soon became ‘Four hundred children…’

Other Examples:

1. An Irish politician – when complaining about people predicting the end of Ireland’s economic boom (the Celtic Tiger), used the idiom ‘… should not upset the apple tart (cart).’

An idiom is a group of words (upset the apple cart) in which the overall meaning is different to the meanings of the individual words. [upset the apple cart = spoil things]

2. A 2FM radio presenter when commenting on the difficulties faced by the wife and daughters of the President of the U.S.A. on their recent visit (June, 2013) to picturesque Glendalough in Co. Wicklow when the fine weather brought out the midges (small flies), told his listeners: ‘… by the midgets (very small people).’

3. Irish Independent newspaper (June, 2013): ‘The government’s own independent think thank (tank) voted to…’ [think tank = an expert group]

4. Anonymous: ‘We were on tenderhooks (tenterhooks) while watching the end of the scary movie.’ [on tenterhooks = in a state of suspense]

5. May, 2013: R.T.E. journalist on the main evening TV news programme, Six One News:
‘…pacifically (specifically)…’

Either this gentleman loves the Pacific Ocean or is peaceful by nature!

So, avoid malapropisms like the plaque. Oops! Avoid them like the plague.