Accelerate the positive: Malapropisms and the love of language

I do love how our brains work when it comes to language, and malapropisms are one of the best examples.

Today, I was listening to a podcast conversation between Tony Wrighton – the host of the show, and a specialist in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) ‒ and Rhiannon Lambert, the ‘singing nutritionist’, who combines professional singing with being a professional nutrition and wellbeing coach. (One of the many podcasts I love…read more here!)

There’s no questioning their credentials, and the conversation on diet and nutrition was interesting (although not long enough, I personally feel, to really delve deep into the conflicting information that exists surrounding ‘clean eating’, low/high fat, low/high carb, gluten-free etc), but that wasn’t the issue.

In fact, the thing I noticed most was that Lambert had a particular quirk when speaking: numerous times she would say a word, but clearly meant to say another similar-sounding or similar-meaning word.

For example, she said:

  • ‘Spiralise out of control’ instead of ‘spiral’ (particularly apt given the subject matter – spiralising is a way of making courgettes into low-carb, spaghetti-style noodles)
  • ‘Emphasise’ instead of ’empathise’
  • ‘Individualistic’ instead of ‘individual’

It may sound like I’m being petty and mean, but I’m honestly not. Loads of people make these kind of tiny errors, including me of course – they’re like little audio typos.

I just find it genuinely intriguing, not to mention quite cute, that far from losing her point in the incorrect words – which were probably due to her talking quickly or being nervous about being interviewed for a podcast ‒ it didn’t alter my understanding of what she said one bit.

On the surface of it, someone saying emphasise instead of empathise should render the sentence fairly meaningless. But it doesn’t, because your brain quickly jumps in and rearranges the jumble – suggesting to you what the correct word might be – almost instantly. You can almost feel it happening!

In the same way as we don’t have to see all the letters correctly inside a word to know what it’s probably trying to say – such as, say, cgonrtaluatoins ‒ the brain doesn’t seem to need the right word in this instance to know what you really mean.

Indeed, the ‘correct’ word for this phenomenon, malapropism, has been recognised for centuries, most notably with Shakespeare’s character Dogberry, in the 1598 play Much Ado About Nothing, who constantly spoke in malapropisms to comedic effect.

A cursory Google informs me that the word malapropism itself is said to come from even earlier, after a character named Mrs. Malaprop in the 1775 play The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Unsurprisingly, as with many words in English, the word comes from a French phrase, mal à propos, which basically translates as ‘in the wrong place’.

But despite using the wrong word, the brain simply picks it up, figures out – through similar sound or meaning – what was actually meant, and enables you to understand it anyway.

Love that! 🙂


Last Night A Podcast Saved My Life

I am totally addicted to podcasts. Specifically, podcasts on self-help.

I know the term ‘self-help’ can sound a bit wanky, but at the heart of it, it’s just people being honest. About their dreams,  routines, personal stories, overcoming obstacles, dealing with failure, figuring out what they want, beating procrastination, and creating and sticking to good habits.

Since I started commuting to work three hours’ a day – one and half hours each way at least – I listen to podcasts pretty much everyday, with a bit of music and meditation apps thrown in.

And even though I feel relatively new to the space, as I’ve only been listening properly for six months or so, it’s still no exaggeration to say that this stuff has changed my life.

I’ve been interested in self-help and motivational techniques for years, but there’s something about podcasts that just feel like you’re getting personal tutoring or counselling from experts directly into your ears.

Sometimes, reading just wouldn’t work. f I’m walking to a bus stop or getting on and off a train when I’m listening ‒ the effect of headphones in-ear, plus a brilliant podcast, feels incredibly meditative yet also engaging.

Maybe it’s just the way that I learn best, but somehow, listening to this stuff in this way just works. It sinks in much easier that a quick blogpost or article or book chapter might. If I’m too tired, rushed or squashed on to a train to read, I can nearly always listen.

Often, interviewees and guests on one podcast will have their own podcasts or have many others they can recommend, and so listening to one show will inevitably lead to another brilliant subscription to another one in a similar vein.

Couple this with other sources of similar self-help (or honest conversations) ‒ such as books or posts by inspirational bloggers, writers, entrepreneurs, online coaches, psychologists and TED talks…

…and I can honestly say I’m feeling more productive, disciplined, free, and calm yet focused than I have in a long while.

For someone as anxious and over-thinking as me, there are always bad mental health days to go with the good, of course, but these podcasts certainly help. Here are my absolute go-to listens for when I need a boost, a break from the frustration of commuting, or a good push in the right direction.


Dear Sugar


From the incredible writer Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, this relationship agony-aunt-style show was my first podcast (well, apart from the first season of American Life’s blockbuster Serial, of course). I quickly became addicted to the soothing, understanding, straight-talking yet compassionate and often very funny insights into readers’ often-harrowing dilemmas. I listen to this one when I’m feeling a bit vulnerable or confused, and need the unending wisdom of Strayed to comfort me. It never fails to cheer me up about life and love.

What I’ve learned most: The solution to most issues in life is: stand up for yourself without being rude, be kind, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and communicate, communicate, communicate.


Real Talk Radio


Far and away one of my favourites. Nicole Antoinette – former accountability coach, full-time habit changer, and now badass podcast host – has incredibly detailed, honest but relaxed conversations about what she calls ‘the wonderful mess of being human’. Long enough for an entire commute, these sessions feel like listening to chats between wise yet wonderful, creative women, who feel like mentors but who secretly I kind of think I want to be friends with, too.

What I’ve learned most: Habits can be changed if you want to change them, and it’s as important to know when you’re letting yourself ‘off the hook’ from a commitment, as it is to give yourself a damn break when you need it, too.


The School of Greatness


From Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete and now successful lifestyle and motivation coach, this podcast is super-positive without being ridiculously cheesy, and features inspiring stories, humour, and ‘you can do it’ motivational music. Sometimes a little bit ‘blokey’ – with sports stars trading bro stories and exercise buffs discussing workout routines – it is nonetheless a vulnerable, honest, and endlessly powerful listen.

What I’ve learned most: Your dreams can change, and that’s OK; and that choosing your own priorities in life (rather than following everyone else’s) is totally the best policy wherever possible.


Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert


The patron saint of young women looking for their purpose in life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love among others) podcasts are like extensions of her books. As interviews and conversations about creativity and giving yourself permission to chase it, these episodes are wise, empathetic, humorous, down-to-earth (at times!), wonderfully artistic, and incredibly encouraging.

What I’ve learned most: Art is a seriously good way to get in touch with your inner emotion, playfulness, freedom – and doing it with absolutely no real purpose or money-making is sometimes actually the best way.


The Couragemakers


From Meg Kissack, who is easily one of the most genuinely frank people I know online, this podcast is more rough and ready than some of the super-polished American blockbusters, and I totally love it for that. It deals with the same questions as the others – honesty, truth, creativity, and going deep on your life’s goals – but in a really down-to-earth, reassuring way. Meg’s blog is equally comforting and inspiring, and I read it most days to remind myself that my ideas and dreams are worth having

What I’ve learned most: As Meg says, ‘everything changes when you believe you matter’.

What are your favourite podcasts? Do you love them too or are you more of a books/blogs person?

Drop me a line @HannahsRhapsody 🙂

Other podcasts I listen to pretty regularly

  1. Impostercast, by Jordan Axani and Megan Rafuse – honest episodes of varying length on life and the sense all have that we might just be faking it until we get found out
  2. Modern Love, by WBUR and The New York Times – beautiful stories on life-changing experiences on love and life, with touching interviews with ordinary people
  3. Zestology: Live with Energy, Vitality, Motivation, Health, Confidence, Great Sleep, Biohacking, and more – a new one I’ve discovered since getting into NLP. Down-to-earth yet inspiring stuff from Brit Tony Wrighton
  4. The 5am Miracle with Jeff Sanders – Healthy Habits, Personal Developments, Rockin’ Productivity – Podcasts on the theme of ‘dominating the day before breakfast’, this is born of Jeff Sanders’ habit of getting out of bed at 5am and getting incredible things done before everyone else is awake. Getting up at 5am sounds far too extreme for me, but the idea that you can change your morning habits and start the day on a high, rather than a harsh, caffeine-soaked shock to the system is a compelling one.
  5. Unmistakeable Creative – Varied podcasts on all sorts of issues affecting creatives and entrepreneurs, from business strategy to personal confidence. Hoping to really get into this one soon.

Other podcasts I’ve downloaded because they look amazing/useful/popular but have yet to really get into. It’s only a matter of time! 

  1. Being Boss: Mindset, Habits, Tactics, and Lifestyle For Creative Entrepreneurs
  2. Ctrl Alt Delete
  3. Running On Om
  4. Happier with Gretchen Rubin
  5. The Fizzle Show – Heart and Hustle, Self-Employment, & Creative Business
  6. The Tim Ferris Show
  7. The Becoming Podcast
  8. Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield
  9. The RobCast
  10. The Girl Gang Conversations – Sarah Starrs

Don’t Think A 5k is Worth Sponsoring? Here’s Why You’re Wrong

I’m running my first proper 5k Pretty Muddy ‘Race for Life’ race in October, to raise cash for breast cancer research, and have come up against a few snide comments about the fact that it’s ‘just’ a 5k, and therefore not really worth any money.

Fair enough, it’s not far (although it does have obstacles and lots of mud, ha). But here’s why I think it’s still worth it.

  1. You have to start somewhere

For some, running 5k is super-easy – it’s their warm up, their ‘rest day’, their cheeky jog on a nice afternoon. For those who run properly, 5k is almost literally a walk in the park (especially at the speed I do it).

But if you’re not used to running, and you never have been, 5k is a difficult slog to get used to.

If we all told ourselves there was no point doing anything unless we started at intermediate level, then most of us would never start anything.

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A level results day: Why my best lessons at uni had nothing to do with my degree

Image credit: PA / Daily Mail (obvs)

Today is A-Level results day, and apart from the mandatory media photos of pretty 18-year-olds jumping up and down clutching their results (above), there will also be many looking ahead to university and wondering what the future holds.

I’ll be the first to admit that my university experience maybe didn’t look that similar to most people’s.

Like it or not, there is a stereotype that students spend most of their time at uni doing as little work as possible, and drinking more on a Wednesday (and Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday) than most people do in a month.

But not only did I not drink alcohol at university (no real reason, just was never that bothered – although all my friends drank, and I do drink now) I also went to Cambridge, which meant that the apparently-usual tactic of doing absolutely sod all until deadline day every three months wouldn’t quite have worked…

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“Self-care”: 6. The unexpected bliss of tiny, daily rituals

I’ve been writing about the practice of “self-care” recently, simply because it’s a phrase that I didn’t hear much growing up, but now – in my online world of lifestyle blogging, daily podcast listening, and mental health awareness ‒ it seems to be everywhere.

For a word that makes British people’s sensitivities stand up on end – “self-care” sounds pretty touchy-feely even for me, and I love this sort of thing – it’s surprisingly important in creating new habits that help you feel like life is worth living, even when it’s pouring with rain outside or something far more scary or upsetting is going on.

Today, I don’t have much wisdom to share, but I just thought – I’ve started doing two tiny things every day that take less than a minute but massively improve my feeling of wellbeing and sense that I’m taking a little bit of time to take care of myself.

These things are neither expensive nor time-consuming, and for many people, they will be as obvious as breathing. For me, though, they’ve come to me slowly, and it’s only recently that I’ve started appreciating their importance, among the many other tiny, tiny habits I have.

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