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We yield to no one
Mary, yes, the verbal incomprehension of Mrs. Malaprop and all her tribe is larger, on the Spooner scale (named such after Count Marrowsky, the first to use it to weigh and find wanting), than the verbal incomprehension of the listener guilty of what I continue to insist can be called "aural malapropism." That is, I continue to insist until a better, possibly pre-existing term, is either brought to my attention or invented for my approval. Both things – Malapropism and Aural Malapropism, express a unilateral mistake. In the first case it is the Speaker who makes the mistake, and the listener who recognizes the mistake. In the second case it is the Listener who makes the mistake, and the Speaker (or the Text, if the text has ears, the way little pitchers do, or used to) who recognizes the mistake, though speakers, like Jesting Pilate, tend not to stay for an answer.
Both are mistakes involving sound. Mrs. Malaprop confuses “alligators” and “allegories.” And “odious” and “odorous.” The person who hears “laid him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen” similarly is homophonically discombobulated, and in attempting to overcome phonetic distress, assigns the wrong words to the right sounds. Perhaps I should have written phonetic and phonemic distress.
In both cases there is insufficient understanding of the language. Confusion Gracelessly Abounding. For all I know, the Malapropism of Mrs. Malaprop begins, possibly, in a pre-existing Aural Malapropism: she heard someone say the phrase “comparisons are odious” and thought she heard “comparisons are odorous” and then repeated the latter later. And then there was that intrepid Englishwoman, a lady traveler famous for having sailed all the way down the Nile beyond Ptolemais and Apollinopolis Magna to the First Cataract at Assuan, and whose public lecture she had eagerly attended, and came away convinced she had heard mentioned riparian “allegories” rather than “alligators” spotted basking near Giza.
These are Things to Think About. These Are Questions for Study and Discussion.
But on one thing no study and no discussion is, by now, necessary. Both the quite (at times) contrary Mary and I share a virtue and also a fault. We both yield to no one in our desire to yield to no one.