Nicholas, I’ve warned you
about not paying attention
in my class.
This is your final warning.
Next time, it’s down to the office.
Now, can anyone answer
the question correctly?
I can, I can Ms Hardwick, says Winnifred,
the teacher’s pet (and a pain in the class).
What is the correct phrase phrase, Winnifred?
Nip in the bud, not butt, Ms Hardwick, she answers,
Sorta like when you prune a flower
In a budding stage, to keep it from growing.
Then she rolls her eyes. In your direction.
Precisely. It is a metaphor
for dealing with a problem
when it is still small
and before it grows
into something LARGER, Ms Hardwick says,
looking dead at you.
Ironically, Nicholas, by not paying attention,
you have stumbled upon another literary device
called a malapropism*. Do you know what that means?
And of course you do, but before
you can tell her Winnifred raises
her hand and starts spelling it:
the French term mal a propos, meaning
when a person, or in this case, a boy,
uses a word that sounds like another
just to be funny.
Excellent, Winnifred, and since
You’re such a comedian, Nicholas, Ms Hardwick howls,
How about you finish reading
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
an example of malopropism
in class next week.