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Smart People Like Semantics: Words for word mix-ups

We've all had that experience. You're at a party. A fellow party goer says something and you're left without the words to describe it.

"So I said to her, say hello to your Auntie Climax..."

What's the word for that? Is it a pun? a malaprop? spoonerism? LitReactor has a great article on the differences, with examples. Some highlights:
Malaprop: For their honeymoon, the couple intended to take an erotic island vacation. (exotic) 
Pun: The plumbing store was flush with a variety of toilet seats. 
Spoonerism: "Three cheers for our queer old dean!" (dear old queen, referring to Queen Victoria) 
Eggcorn: “feeble” instead of “fetal”: When I learned that the zombie apocalypse was really upon us, I had to resist the urge to curl up into a feeble position and just let the undead feast on me.
Neologism: A new word that works its way into the lexicon before becoming it's own word. Usually comes from a company, brand, or product (e.g.,internet, laser, xerox). 
Portmanteau: A special kind of neologism made by smushing two words together to create a new one (think celebrity couples: Ben + Jennifer = Benifer).
I encourage you to check out the full post if grammar and semantics are your thing. Clearly, they are not our forte.

This post originally appeared on Stuff Smart People Like. Subscribe to the Podcast.


  1. Of note, while everyone makes these kinds of slips of the tongue once in a while, a significant increase in things such as neologisms and spoonerisms can actually be indicative of a brian lesion. And, depending on what kind of slip of the tonguw is occuring it can help us to localize that lesion. Yay for the brain!

  2. I'm not a member of Diaspora, so I can't comment on Matt K's post there, but here goes a couple points.

    1.) It's technically a comma splice. Somerset Maugham was fond of them. I think the impression was that he was fairly smart, but to be honest I've never read "Of Human Bondage."

    2.) While semantic verbal abilities have been shown to be correlated with IQ, knowledge of grammar is much less so related.