reproach » approach

Chiefly in:   above/beyond approach

Classification: English – questionable – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “I think he would want to be above approach even when it’s from a state commission and not a private lobbyist.” (Kathleen Clark, quoted by the St. Louis Dispatch on 30 May 2006)
  • “I must say that his stewardship of this as Executive Director in the past almost three years now has just been above approach, and I would like …” (link)
  • “As a person who has spent a life time in the construction business, I can assure you that Midwest’s work was above approach. They did an excellent job of …” (link)
  • “I know I sin everyday but i strive to live in a manner that is above approach. Meaning no one can come and questioon me aout the way I live b/c I will live …” (link)
  • “Government actions in the employment, procurement and contracting markets should be beyond approach, and it should lead by example wherever and whenever …” (link)
  • “His creativity is beyond approach. The first bunch of his books all feature “Monsters” for lack of a better word.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Jim Parish (American Dialect Society mailing list, 30 May 2006)

Parish reported on ADS-L: “In this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there’s an AP story on Sen. Harry Reid, who accepted a questionable gift from the Nevada Athletic Commission. Kathleen Clark, an expert on congressional ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, is quoted as saying” the first cite above. Parish added: “If it’s a deliberate coinage - above being approached? - it strikes me as halfway clever, but there’s a definite eggcornish flavor to it.”

Eliminating duplicates, I found 88 Google webhits for “X above approach”, where X is a form of be. Most of them are relevant, and almost all of those look inadvertent.

“Above approach” is certainly a malaprop, with the relatively rare “reproach” replaced by the very common “approach”, but I’ve marked this one as “questionable” as an eggcorn because I’m not sure how approaching enters into the perceived meaning of the idiom, especially with reference to abstractions rather than persons. However, the last of the “above approach” cites, with its explanation that “no one can come” [i.e. approach] and question the writer’s manner of life, suggests a possible contribution. And maybe the development of “beyond approach” provides an explanation.

The “beyond approach” webhits include many like the last cite above, in which the expression seems to mean ‘beyond approaching, unapproachable, first-order’ (similar to “beyond compare” ‘beyond comparison, incomparable, first-order’), with no possible reproaching alluded to — presumably the malaprop “beyond approach” reinterpreted more or less literally. The next-to-last cite could go either way, and might represent an intermediate step on the way to literal reinterpretation.

| 1 comment | link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2006/05/31 |

ghost » goat

Chiefly in:   give up the goat

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • My old 14″ monitor went completely wrong and after a few years trusty service it finally gave up the goat, hence my need to find a new monitor for my little machine. ( review, Feb. 18, 2001)
  • The INS had finally given up the goat, and we were standby gauges only. (Naval Safety Center, Approach Magazine, 2004)
  • Canon mp760 gave up the goat. (TGForumz, Sep. 22, 2005)
  • One could argue that since he’s focused his practice largely on documentary filmmaking since the Eighties … he might as well have given up the goat for all the attention given to the form in theaters in the media until recently. (Reverse Shot Online, Winter 2006)
  • Luckily our old Toyota just got us through and then gave up the goat. (ABC Rural, SA Country Hour, Jan. 11, 2006)
  • Stay calm, collected, and don’t give up the goat. (Paul Davidson, Ten Rules for Making Rules, Apr. 16, 2006)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Jeanette Winterson (The Times, May 13, 2006)

Jeanette Winterson writes:

The other day my elderly country neighbour asked for a bit of help to get his new washing machine into the kitchen. That generation never use “it”, always, “he” or “she”, so I wasn’t surprised to hear the washing machine called “he”, but I was surprised by what followed: “My old washing machine, he’s given up the goat,” he said, in a broad Gloucestershire accent.

“The goat?” I replied. “Are you sure?” “Oh, yes,” said my neighbour, “ain’t you never heard that expression before, given up the goat?” “Well, not exactly . . . where does it come from?” “Ah well,” said my neighbour, “in the old days, when folks didn’t have much, and mainly worked the land, a man would set store by his animals, especially his goat, and when he come to die, he would bequeath that goat to his heirs, and that is why we say, ‘he’s given up the goat’.”

I am thrilled with this and from now on there will be no more ghosts, only goats.

| 4 comments | link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2006/05/20 |

oats » oaks

Chiefly in:   sow one's wild oaks

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • Betty Jean loves Ezekiel with her heart and soul. She hopes he will sow his wild oaks soon and will finally be able to love only her. (Amazon member review, for "Are You Satisfied, Yet?")
  • So if you are into artsy films with over the top romance this movie is for you . . . Just watch out for ape/wolf man thing sowing his wild oaks. (Amazon member review, for "Bram Stoker's Dracula" DVD)
  • This kid took a summer off to try and sow some wild oaks in the music industry. Didn’t pan out. (, Apr. 21, 2000)
  • Some people spend the first six days of the week sowing wild oaks and then go to church on Sunday to pray for crop failure! (National Christian Choir, Director's Notes, Feb. 27, 2006)
  • I sowed a lot of wild oaks in my youth. When the crop came in I was in the fast lane on highway to hell. ( message board, May 4, 2006)
  • I didn’t want to be all uptight about my body. I wanted to soar my wild oaks. (What it feels like..., May 17, 2006)

The substitution of oaks for oats in this expression is sometimes used as a joke (though note that two of the examples above involve jokes about “crops” that actually make less sense with oaks). It’s possible that this eggcorn appears more frequently in dialects where postvocalic stops like /t/ and /k/ are glottalized, though the /k/-/t/ alternation is not uncommon in wider usage (see, for instance, buck naked » butt naked). The last example (provided by slangologist Grant Barrett) is a double eggcorn, combining the oaks substitution with sow » soar (a non-rhotic substitution like sought after » sort after).

See also soak one’s wild oats.

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2006/05/19 |

lost » loss

Chiefly in:   no love loss

Classification: English – final d/t-deletion – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • Now naturally, the Shiites, as you were saying earlier, have no love loss for the Iraqi leader President Saddam Hussein. (CNN transcript, Apr. 2, 2003)
  • For Red Sox fans, especially in New England, there is no love loss between the two teams. (New Paltz Oracle, Oct. 16, 2003)
  • Those games are always competitive and fiery and there is certainly no love loss between us. (Amherst College Athletics, Mar. 10, 2005)
  • No love loss between Williams and Sharapova. (Edinburgh News, June 29, 2005)
  • Really, no love loss between the two of you certainly now. (CNN transcript, Oct. 12, 2005)
  • Sobule has no love loss for the Bush administration. (WorldNetDaily, Feb. 16, 2006)
  • No love loss for Zhang Ziyi in Hong Kong. (USA Today, Mar. 27, 2006)
  • Mind you, I’ve got no love loss for Phoenix. (Arizona Daily Star, UA Fans Sports Blog, May 17, 2006)

The idiom “no love lost,” i.e., ‘no love that is lost,’ is reinterpreted as “no love loss,” i.e., ‘no loss of love.’ Since lost and loss are closely related, this eggcorn is rather subtle — so subtle that it has even worked its way into newspaper headlines (Edinburgh News, USA Today).

The reinterpretation may help to clarify the idiom, since “(there is) no love lost” has never been particularly transparent. As the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms explains, the expression actually had two contrary senses through the 18th century: implying either extreme affection or extreme dislike. The latter sense eventually won out.

In the Eggcorn Forum Sphinxie notes the reverse substitution from loss to lost, as in “I am sorry for your lost” (appearing frequently in online memorials and guest books).

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2006/05/18 |

knickers » nipples

Chiefly in:   get one's nipples in a twist

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “You won’t get your nipples in a twist over our choice this month — there’s no debate how great this one is!” (link)
  • “Just don’t expect me to get my nipples in a twist over your caterwauling about some architecture.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Michael Palmer (Usenet group soc.motss, 10 April 2006.)

Palmer pointed out a poster’s use of “Go on, get your nipples in a twist” earlier that day, adding that “Google(tm) provides 389 hits, as against 193,000 for the standard knickers (also, 1,430 for nickers, 79 for snickers, 154 for knockers, and 19 for niggers).” The (primarily) British idiom is undoubtedly opaque to American speakers unfamiliar with “knickers” ‘underpants’, and “nipples”, which is phonetically very close to “knickers”, makes some (painful) sense.

| 1 comment | link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2006/05/15 |