We Have a Sometimes “Mrs. Malaprop” in Sarah Palin

The character of Mrs. Malaprop, in R.B Sheridan’s The Rivals misused words so amusingly that she gave the word “malapropism” to the English language, a goofy, hilarious form of word play for observers, but unintended by the “innocent” delinquent.
“Good punctuation means not to be late.”
“He’s a wolf in cheap clothing.”
“Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.” (Dan Quayle, Vice President)

Then there’s Yogi Berra.

Watch Sara Palin. She has some doozies. The latest, a mix of repudiate and refute: “refudiate”. In such language befuddlements, she may endear herself to the less articulate constituency. She may be the most prominent candidate for a genuine, contemporary Mrs. Malaprop. Katie Couric, during the campaign, asked her about her reading habits. She was too vague, evidence that she is not a ready reader. “O, I read them all.” Her learning is suspect. That makes her a heroine of the Tea Party. In my estimation, Palin appeals to a “tribe” of people who are distrustful of the more literate and articulate. (That accounts for their negative attitude toward Pres. Barack Hussein Obama.) A “tribe” is, to me, a tight-knit, communal gathering bound by language, dress, customs, mores and a family totem, and hostile to all outsiders, given to extremely violent inter-tribal warfare. At least, that is how the Tea-Party behaves.

Take that from a guy who, among blue-collar, union workers at an automobile manufacturing plant, earned the appellation, “college boy”. I sounded, and, perhaps, looked different, but I was not disliked. (The time-and-motion study guy came around to observe me, and I was pulled aside by the union steward to slow down a bit or management would retime the jobs. Working harder made time pass faster.) I worked several “blue-collar” jobs for quite a while and worked them well; my background is blue collar. I served in the U.S. Army infantry. I have extensive experience among non-college-educated, union people. I have relatives who view me as not one of them, when we have political talk. They are ultra-conservative.

I believe malapropisms come from pretentious persons affecting knowledge which has been learned only from word of mouth through others and not directly from first-hand experience with books and dictionaries. “Informal” learning by osmosis is a sort of “pick-up game”, but they are not aware of the real game of language and are given to putting on airs. Such language gaffs are reliable markers for a tribal identity that I have attempted to describe above.

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Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Comments Off on We Have a Sometimes “Mrs. Malaprop” in Sarah Palin  
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