I was listening to "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths, and he ostensibly says the word criminarily.

"I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminarily vulgar..."

It's usually transcribed as criminally in lyrics.

My question is: is there a name for intentionally using a word that sounds almost like an established word but is in some way distorted in place of an established word?

At first I was thinking it was a malapropism but not using an established word which led me to the word barbarism. But this different word usage might be intentional in order to improve the cadence of the song, and if it is then what would it be called? I'm thinking it's just barbarism or a neologism but wondered if there was something more specific, since it is close to an already existing word?

  • Best song ever!
    – user11580
    Jul 1, 2016 at 8:56

4 Answers 4


In my research I unearthed the term corruption:

(Linguistics) an altered form of a word

It could also be a solecism:

A usage that constitutes a breach of the standard rules of grammar or syntax.

"Solecism" does however seem to pertain more to grammatical errors than the words themselves, so "corruption" is definitely superior in this scenario.


I'd classify criminarily as a malapropism:

Malapropisms occur when someone substitutes a similar-sounding word for another word. For example, George Bush was reported to say, “nucular power pants” instead of “nuclear power plants” in 2003, and, in Sheridan’s play, Mrs. Malaprop said, “He's the very pineapple of politeness” instead of “He's the very pinnacle of politeness.”

It could very well be a portmanteau, as another answer mentions, but if so, it's one that's used in a malaprop way.

  • I think it's just a special case of malapropism.
    – Bob
    Dec 22, 2015 at 21:45

It could also be a portmanteau of criminally and ordinarily. Seems like a comparison that Morrissey would do.


More generally, it seems to be a "vulgarism".


My favorite example is "edumacation".

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