Mrs. Malaprop Goes Christmas Shopping

by Richard L. Howey, Wyoming, USA

WARNING: This essay is a bit of pure silliness written in the spirit of foolish optimism that the year should end on a note of fun and with the hope that next year will be better for all of us than this last year was; so if you’re not in a mood for something silly, you might want to try reading the Oxford English Dictionary instead which should keep you occupied for at least a year.

Note: For those of you not familiar with Richard Sheridan’s play The Rivals written in 1775 at the age of 23, he introduced the pompous and linguistically pretentious Mrs. Malaprop who became the epitome of one who misused words in egregious ways and generally abused language. Shakespeare had already used such devices and many writers and comics have subsequently employed them, but Mrs. Malaprop remains, as it were, the grand champagne.

Since I began this year with a bit of silliness in the January issue, I thought I would end it with a Mrs. Malaprop sequel. So, here it is with a promise that I won’t write any further sequels unless there is a landslide of requests, popular acclaim, a mandate. ( I have already begun organizing a campaign.)

Dear Cousin Judith,

As you know, George used to organize all the holiday shopping liszts, so that all I had to do was go through and checkov the items. This year, however, with George gone, I shall have to do everything myself and as you are appraised, we have a slough of friends, relatives, and acquaintances for whom I must try to find an apposite gift, not to mention George’s special friends and acquaintances who shared his interests in microscopy and history au naturel. It is for this latter day group that I turn to you for aide since I know that you have won several awards for your writings on various obtuse subjects involving microscopic creatures and are, therefore, clearly a ranked amateur. Several of George’s colleagues said that your work was quite extinguished.

To save you time and the arborous labor of coming up with liszts of your own, I am sending you some of my notions of gifts for specifics personnes for your commentary. I will appreciate your help egregiously.

1) Agnus Ponderpot–I do know that he has a special interest in a group of aquatic thingies called ostracises or “seed shrimp”. Sounds silly to me that people believe that you plant these little critters and use them to make scampi but, as the dear French say–they have a lovely expression for everything–“Chacun a son agouti!”. So, I thought I might send him some of those miniature shrimp that they imprison in eco-habitats for people to display and then he can free them from their badinage and plant them. I’ll include a 10 pound bag of pottering soil.

2) Percival Tripdash–As you know, Percy teaches at a prestidigitatious school for boys. He has extensive repute for being quite negligee when it comes to taking care of his duties regarding the proper filing of his paperwork and students have complained about the results of their work always being reported late especially their coarse preformance. Agnus use to say that this explained why Percy had a special interest in tardygrades. I never quite understood the connection but, then exposing myself to this world was a considerate effort. I thought I might send him one of those kits of moss and liversorts where these things are supposed to thrive.

3) Monty Mikelwhist–I never quite understood why George tolerated the unsufferable Monty whose immensity I always found repellant. He had a special interest in the reproduction of beetles and, in addition to this interest in buggery, roomers have circulated that he has been observed practicing philately in public. I should think that his very size should make it extremely difficult for him to even move around; in my view, he is an ebullient in a China shop! Nonetheless, he was on George’s liszt, so I thought I would send him a Dengue beetle in a nice oaken frame.

4) Millicent Hashnip–Dear Millie is such a dear, dear friend and I want to find some special gift for her. She is only one of three female members of the Millstone Microscopical Society out of three-hundred and fifty members which is certainly a strong statement about a gander gap. Poor Millie does, however, seem declined to select rather bazaar areas for her research. I recall that two years ago bat feces from Guanotanomo was her central interest and that’s the place where I think the American military has one of its last resorts in the Cubic region. Thank goodness she has moved on to other issues because, I am certainly not going to buy her a bat--Heaven knows, it might turn out to be a vampire. I gather that her most recent delectation is parasites in the guts of termagants. I can’t simply send her a fence post as food for the nasty creatures but, I discovered a scientific supply company which provides a rather handsome derangement of samples of 50 different kinds of woods including a piece from Epping Forest. I thought she could experiment to find out which kinds they prefer as a petite snack.

5) Harvey Featherstonehaugh–Why on earth he prefers to go by the name of Hank is anybody’s congestion and it is also a puzzlement why a botanist would as an amateur microscopist be interested in brainial matters and specifize on the medusa oblongata. However, I suppose that anyone who has won a Nobel Prize is entitled to be somewhat eccentric. From the same supply house which I mentioned before, I found a nice set of 200 slides of sections of the brain.

6) Magnus Trapwillow–Maggie, as his students call him, teaches cultural history and is a bit of a nave but, I have always had a special fondness for him. Since he teaches in a boys’ school near here, he and I often have lunch and the occasional dinner together. He is always witty and deformative–I learn so much from him. The other day, after, I must confess, two glasses of Gateau Rothschild Pont de Pigalle, he told me that Helen of Troy had to have a Hectoristomy which was a total and udder surprise to me. One of the grate delights of Maggie when he educates me, in his intimitable fashion, is that he always has a bit of twinkle in his eye. He also, that very same day, informed me that Duns Scrotus was discovered defrocked in a nunnery, all of which just goes to show that religious shenanigans have been going on for centennials. It’s almost enough to make one an acrostic! As you know Maggie has a great deal of money and a magnanimous estate with mavellous gardens and a 120 room castle with crinloined turrets. He often invites some of his favorite boys for the weekend and vacations and there have been some very fragrant rumors but, Maggie just ignores them and sweeps everything under the parapet. The other day, he revealed me over a splendid lunch of coq au van that his most recent passion is algae, so I thought since Maggie is such a sweetheart and so generous that I would buy him a first edition of Swinburne.

7) Wilton Fraisbury–George always used to call him “Willie” which irritated him no end or “Strawberry” which drove him to detraction. He has a face like a prune and is a total sourplus, yet he persists in putting on heirs and even though he is as poor as a church house, he is nonetheless swanktimonius–a very tiresome creature. Were he not the chairman of the Dingledell Microscopical Society, I think no one would bother about him. I don’t mean to sound ascorbic but, he does rouse my nettles. I find it quite fitting that he is an “expert” on Mixedupmycetes or “slime moulds”. Since he a lawyer, I decided to give him a book titled: The History of the Sewer Rats which I found at the eggcentric bookshop: Books for Your Anemones. I know I’m not being very nice but, that man simply stirs up my gaul.

8)Fred Reddenbot–Fred is the editor of Microblips which is the publication of the society. He is jolly little man with very expansive tastes and a great deal of money and so it is quite difficult for me to think of a suitable gift which doesn’t have a price tag up in the stratocumulation. He is quite fusty about his attire and still wears cuff links and I did come across , in a charmed little antique shoppe in that village near Bristleboar called Magnum Parvus, a pair of French cuff studs with scarup beetles on them. There are two drawbacks to them: 1) they are quite priceless and 2) such beetles are known as dung beetles because they consume fetal matter. So, dear cousin, please advise.

9) Lord Reginald Chuttlebush–There were rumors , years ago of course, that he was associated with the Communalist Party and my dear George used to refer to him, behind his backside, of course–as “Red Reggie”. He is reputed to be from a highly extinguished family but, in my humid opinion, he is little more than a startup. His specialty is leopardoptery so, I found him a quite nice specimen of an Atlas moth.

10) Penelope Pristlepruitt–Penny is the Secretary for the society, although why they need her I’m not quite sure, since they don’t have any secrets and if they did they would be so tiny as to be microscopic. (Oh, I do believe I make a small joke?) My own personnel opinion is that the men appointed her to keep her around so that they could goggle her quite ampule besom. Nonetheless, I must remit that she has a quite pleasant manor and is always courteous. She has a special interest in endocrinoderms which probably dates back to her days as a medical technologist. I’m sure she already has an abundance of starfish, sea pickles, and crinolids, so I thought she might enjoy a selection of bristle stars and I located a company on lineage–aren’t computers wonderful; they make life so much more agressible–and this corporation is located in Infonesia. The sails persons were most obligating and I was able to put together a very nice selection for dear Penny.

11) Montague M. Montague–George always thought that the initial stood for Montague, thus producing nominculturally a trifecta which, I gather, has something to do with equerristrianism. M.M. as he prefers to be addressed (George used to call him 3M) has an interesting, if rather unusual area of speciization. When George first told me that M.M. was something of an expert on nudies, I nearly fell off my chair. Then George explained to me, smirking all the while, that “nudies” is a shorthand term which Moluccans and clamors use for nudibranchs. When M.M. once told me that these creatures are among the most divertingly and brightly colored animals in the whole of the animal kingdom–(more of this male gander superiority. Why aren’t there any biological queendoms?)–I thought that this was just a pigment of his imagination. However, now I must admit that these creatures are truly munificent. Misfortunately, these organisms are also called “sea slugs” and, as you know dear cousin, I can barely abride snails, let alone slugs. I vivaciously remember the occasion when we were visiting and you served those French snails–excesscargo or something like that–and I was volcanically ill. Somewhere I read that nudibranchs have long tongues with lots of teeth and that they are splendid when viewed under pulverized light. I was quite lucky and found a seller on E-Bait who had an extensive selection of slides of these snail tongues or radulae as they are denominated. I picked out twenty types which the seller assured me don’t have any root canals or fillings. I do think he was teasing me a bit but, I think M.M. will find them quite toothsome.

12) Thorskild Skallagrimmsonar–I don’t know whether or not you’ve met him; he’s a transport from Iceland. Nobody knows how to pronunciate his name and so everyone simply calls him Thor. He is a prototype of a Scandalknavian; very tall, heavily mussled, and of course, intensely blond. If I were twenty years younger, I might, as the young people say, put a hit on him or strike on him–something like that. I think he has been watching too much Star Trek because he claims to be a vulcanologist. It’s true that he does have rather pointy ears but, nonetheless, there cannot be any versimilarity in his claim. In any case, his main interest is rocks and he said something about being a Sedimentarian, but, he seems very active to me. When I was in London last week, I visited a rock shop or , as they called it, a Mineral Emperorium–they are really quite snootful and the prices were simply gastronomical. A medium-sized genome with amethyst crystals was three hundred pounds! I inquired as to whether they might have some micro-mounts which I patently explained to them would be gifts for an Iceland genomist. With this information, their previous glycerol attitude thawed considerately because, as it turned out, they were well-acquainted with Thor. As a consequence, they packaged together a handsome derangement of micro-mount specimens and gave me a much depreciated discount.

13) Martin Clepclip–He is, as you well know, president of the society and is constantly remindering everyone of that fact. He is one of the Colonel Dirigible types, a veritable gas-brag whose status is entirely tittular. For all the fuss and flurry he projects, he is really quite idol. Grungingly, I do admit that his social skills have been affective and the membership has increased considerably under his tutelage. I am quite sure that this is consequential of his profligatiginous capaciousness for imbibification–which is not to say that he is an alcoholic but, with his great bulwark at twenty stone, he can certainly pack it away. I have noticed that a large number of these heavily drinkers prefer single malt Scotch–I should think, double, triple, or even quadrapole malts would be even better. However, since I limit my drinking to slivovitz and prune juice, I am really in no position to commentary on those excelsiors made from malted barely. Martin professes to have an interest in diatribes and desmids and particularly those slides with patternal arrangements, such as, circles, stars, and rosettes. Thor had some duplicated slides that he was selling off, so I bought two of them for Martin and he can add them to his horde.

My dear Judith, I just realized that I am sending you thirteen names –a regular Barker’s dozen–and that this letter has gotten too long and places an honorous burden on you. So, I shall take action and be derisive; I’ll give everyone else on the liszts one of my holiday veggie-fruit cakes. I’ve always thought it preponderous to limit holiday cakes to just fruit. I shall get the two maids and the cook to pitch in and we’ll whip up an extra large batch this year. George always used to joke that we should take out extra assurance in case the postman dropped one on his foot. I confess they are hearty and even the small ones weigh between eleven and twelve pounds and have the virtue of being virtually everlasting. I still have twenty-four from last year and that will certainly aide the cause. No one ever seems to remember to ask for the recipe ( not even you, dear cousin). It’s not, after all as though it were Top Sacred. So, since you are doing me such a kind favoritism regarding my gift suggestions, I will enclose a copy of the recipe as a tocsin of my depreciation.

Veggie-Fruit Cake

1) First of all, you need batter with flower, butter, yeast, baking powder, salt, and sugar–I leave all of that to the cook.


2) The fruity part:

a) chopped lemon peel

b) chopped orange peel

c) chopped dried percinnamon

d) chopped apple peel–preferably Grampy Smiths

e) chopped dried figs

f) chopped dried prunes

g) chopped dried quince

h) chopped dried Keywee fruit


3) The Veggie Part:

a) diced asparagrass

b) diced okra (preferably deported from Louiseiana)

c) sliced Brussel sprouts

d) shredded carrots

e) grandulated potatoes

f) chopped eggplant

g) mashed horseradish

4) The Spices and Miscellaneous Part:

a) coarse mustard

b) dill weed

c) anchovy paste

d) black molasses

e) vanilla extraction

All of these parts must be thoroughly mixed together, then placed in the baking bread tins, whereupon you sprinkle each loaf with clam juice and red pepper and bake until each loaf is a reddish golden brown.

This year I will be sure that you receive two of the large loafs and I look forward to hearing your replies to my suggestive gift suggestions.

With much affection and wishing you a happy holiday season.

Endnote: I have made a provisional promise to not write anymore sequels, in part, because my long-suffering spouse has informed me that trying to proofread these pieces is a nightmare. However, I’m sure that once she has tasted the Veggie-Fruit cake, she’ll change her mind. In the meantime, let us hope that Mrs. Malaprop doesn’t get the idea of writing a horrorscope for the New Year.

All comments to the author Richard Howey are welcomed.

Editor's note: Visit Richard Howey's new website at where he plans to share aspects of his wide interests.


  Microscopy UK Front Page
Micscape Magazine
Article Library

© Microscopy UK or their contributors.

Published in the December 2012 edition of Micscape Magazine.

Please report any Web problems or offer general comments to the Micscape Editor .

Micscape is the on-line monthly magazine of the Microscopy UK website at Microscopy-UK .  

© Ltd, Microscopy-UK, and all contributors 1995 onwards. All rights reserved. Main site is at .