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Misnomers

16
Apr
2008
 

By Christine Lovatt

English is full of words that mean the wrong word in one sense or another. Some words we may not have heard of since our last English lesson at school.

Misnomer means a name used wrongly, such as a Swiss roll, which is not Swiss apparently. Panama hats are made in Ecuador but the name came about because they were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destination.

Malapropism is the unintentionally humorous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound. It comes from Sheridan’s play The Rivals, in which Mrs Malaprop would say preposition instead of proposition, or illegible instead of eligible.

Solecism is a grammatical error, such as I could of been a contender. The name comes from Soloi, an Athenian colony where the inhabitants spoke a corrupt form of Greek.

Oxymoron is a term that contradicts itself, such as a working holiday, a definite maybe or an original copy.

Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration used for effect, such as I died laughing or he was as big as a bus.

Then there are punctuation errors, such as the sign outside a school saying Children Drive Slowly or outside a safari park Elephants Please Stay In Your Car.

It just goes to show that we English speakers like to use the most apt choice of words – or maybe it means that we’re not perfect!

 

Happy puzzling

 

 

 

 

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Misnomers

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