When a writer, speaker, or character uses an incorrect or inappropriate word that sounds similar to the correct word, it is called malapropism.
When words are used incorrectly, the malapropism leads to a humorous statement.
George W. Bush:
We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.(has substituted "hostile" for "hostage")
Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child. (has substituted "bondage" for "bonding")
Examples from Richard Sheridan's The Rivals, a play from 1775. The character "Mrs. Malaprop," constantly substituted incorrect words. This is where the word "malapropism" comes from.
Promise to forget this fellow-to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory. (has substituted "illiterate" for "obliterate")
She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile. (substituted "allegory" for "alligator")
From Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing:
Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons. (has substituted "comprehended" for "apprehended" and "auspicious" for "suspicious")
From Mark Twain's Huck Finn:
was most putrified with astonishment. (has substituted "putrified" with "petrified")
Literary Terms Examples