I happened to stumble across a book I’d brought home from a long-ago PRSA Counselors Academy event entitled, "More Anguished English." It’s written by Richard Lederer and contains chapter after chapter of hilarious hijacks of the English language.
For example, a job seeker wrote on her application: "I have an obsession for detail. I like to make sure I cross my I’s and dot my t’s."
A history student submitted an essay that contained this gem: "Pompeii was destroyed by an overflow of saliva from the Vatican."
And there was this beaut from a local newspaper: "This is the time of year when all the policemen and firemen hold their balls."
There are nearly 200 pages of laugh out loud malaprops. I found the book especially relevant since I come across quite a few malaprops in my e-mail in-box. The most recent involved an inquiry as to whether we’d create a ‘horse-and-pony’ show for a prospective client. Malaprops in a business setting are, sadly, no laughing matter. They reflect poorly on the individual as well as his or her firm. In severe instances, repeated grammatical and syntax sins can actually jeopardize client relationships.
I’d been planning to compile some of the more egregious malaprops that I’ve come across and write my own handbook. But, Mr. Lederer seems to have cornered the market. Oh well, maybe I’ll focus instead on the funniest new business gaffes I’ve witnessed. For example, I can still picture a former associate heatedly gesturing to make a point in front of a large group of prospects, only to knock a presentation board with such force that it literally took flight and ended up clear across the room. And, then there was the time an associate inadvertently spilled a steaming hot cup of coffee on the lap of a senior prospective client executive. To be sure, neither incident went over very well. In fact, both ended up derailing otherwise well crafted "horse and pony shows."