are incorrectly used words that produce a humorous effect. The term derives from the character Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan's play The Rivals; Mrs. Malaprop loves big words but uses them ignorantly to create hilarious solecisms and occasionally embarrassing double entendres. One of Mrs. Malaprop's famous similes is as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.
Legal malapropisms are more common than one might expect. One lawyer apparently mistook meretricious (= marked by falsity; superficially attractive but fake nevertheless) for meritorious with embarrassing consequences: a plaintiff's lawyer, he asked a judge to rule favorably on his client's “meretricious claim.”Similarly, Senator Sam Ervin recalled a lawyer who, in arguing that his client had been provoked by name-callingepithets), said:
“I hope that in passing sentence on my client upon his conviction for assault and battery, your honor will bear in mind that he was provoked to do so by the epitaphs hurled at him by the witness.”
Quoted in Paul R. Clancy, Just a Country Lawyer 121 (1974).
Other illustrations are nefarious (= evil) for multifarious (“Ties, shirts, shoes, belts, socks, and all the other nefarious parts of one's wardrobe”) and voracity (= greediness with food) for veracity (“There would have been nothing to be gained by trying to impeach the truthfulness or voracity of those witnesses.”). For still more examples,