“DOGBERRY – One more thing, sir. Our watch, sir, as you know, has comprehended two auspicious persons.” (Much Ado About Nothing)
Ah, welcome in, Mrs. Malaprop. Wait, what? Isn’t that Shakespeare, you say? Who is Mrs. Malaprop and what on earth does she have in common with Dogberry?
Well, in 1775, Richard Sheridan introduced his play, The Rivals, in which dear Mrs. Malaprop was wont to say such things as “…she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying.” Or, “…promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.” Her misuses were so absurdly memorable that her name was added to the English language to define this habit of misusing words.
Malapropism, noun: 1.the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, esp when creating a ridiculous effect, as in ‘I am not under the affluence of alcohol’. 2. the habit of misusing words in this manner.
But how did Sheridan comes up with the name Mrs. Malaprop, you ask? Well, according to Dictionary.com, Unabridged, it originated around “1660-70; from French mal à propos badly (suited) to the purpose”
So, there you are. From a French phrase, to a theatrical character, to a wonderfully delightful word!