I know of only one person like Norm Crosby. That would be Norm Crosby, who’s also the only person I know who could make a career out of malaprops. The rest of us typically have to make careers out of avoiding them.

In fact, Christina Desmarais recently wrote an article for Inc. — “21 More Common Phrases Even Smart People Screw Up” — that shows the lurking danger malaprops pose for the unwitting. While her article left “The First 21 Common Phrases Even Smart People Screw Up” to the imagination, it nevertheless made the peril evident.

Inspired by Ms. Desmarais, I offer here a list of the 12 malaprops I hear most frequently:

  1. That’s a mute point.
  2. I’ve been taken for granite.
  3. Let me play Devil’s avocado.
  4. Let’s get down to grass tacks.
  5. He has a photogenic memory.
  6. We’re all in, lockstep and barrel.
  7. His career was a flash in the pants.
  8. It’s mine, for all intensive purposes.
  9. That dude’s a gluten for punishment.
  10. He has a self-defecating sense of humor.
  11. June 1 is the beginning of our physical year.
  12. In these circumstances, syntax is a red heron.

If you have some favorites malaprops, please share them. Otherwise, this will have been an exercise in fertility.

Photo by Manjith Kainickara, Dallas, Texas, USA, via Wikimedia Commons. Photoshopped by Jonathan Spiliotopoulos.