A malaprop is when you have the meaning right but the pronunciation wrong. I don’t think a malaprop requires the mispronunciation to be an actual word. (In which case I know a member of my local home government who makes a lot of malaprops. But I digress.)
Anyway, the toaster gives the guy his revenge…
Wouldn’t you know it; I ran into a comic about malaprops!
Quiz: Can you tell what the correct words are? I counted six malaprops…
First, numbers in most contexts are adjectives. Adjectives don’t show number in English. We say “five apples” but not “fives apples.” But that’s not my point.
Let’s move on to arithmetic. We (correctly) say “Three and six are nine.” Plural verb, so plural numbers, right? Not quite. That sentence has a plural subject, three and six. You could as easily say “Tom and Pete are sick.” The two persons are one each, and they make a plural subject.
A number is singular when you talk about the number itself!
For example, you say, “six is half of twelve, thirteen is a prime number.” Singular verbs! You’re referring to the number itself (not themselves), not six of something, such as six people.
Finally we get to the comic. Third panel. The guy confuses referring to the number itself with the number of things. Sounds wrong, doesn’t it?
Anyway, there’s a little incongruity for you that I bet you never noticed.
Back in the days of typewriters, all you had was the hyphen, and if you wanted something stronger, you typed two hyphens. But nowadays, with proportional fonts and all, we have the hyphen, the N-dash, and the M-dash. (Typographers, with their fonts and printing presses, always had these, by the way.)
Trouble is, lots of folks don’t know how to use all these professional tools. But I ran into an article the other day written by someone who did! The organization is Axios, the series is Axios Science, and the writer is Andrew Freedman. Link: https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-science-b9b38725-e940-4c81-867d-64c7cac89f53.html
First, a hyphen, used correctly:
They used high-resolution climate models based on various emissions scenarios to project future changes in key cloud forest variables.
“high-resolution” is a compound adjective. Correct.
Next, an N-dash:
The study finds that in about 25–45 years, 70%–86% of páramo are likely to be drier or “be subject to tree invasion.”
You use the N-dash to indicate a range; in this case “25 to 45” and “70 to 86.” Correct.
Finally the M-dash, in the next article:
Considerable time is spent focusing on whether a planet is in its star’s “habitable zone” — an orbit in which liquid water can be sustained on the surface — but that alone can’t predict whether life will exist.
Use M-dashes for some kind of break, or as a strong set of parentheses to set off something important, which he did here. Technically he doesn’t need the spaces around the M-dashes (I don’t use the spaces) but it’s allowed. Maybe he wanted to strengthen the effect.
Here’s the picture that went with the first article:
In English (okay, and many other languages) we have this concept called agreement. Agreement means that singulars go with singulars and plurals go with plurals. I remember this specific example being covered back in sixth grade. He gets it wrong. Can you spot it?
Well, panel 2. “type” is singular, but “those” is plural. It should be “that type of publication.” Or “those types of publications.”