mast » mass

Chiefly in:   flying a flag at half-mass

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

Spotted in the wild:

  • Flying Your Flag Half Mass
    When you are on the court and tragedy strikes or some unexpected disturbing event leaves you injured to the very core, you must step back and allow yourself to feel the pain. It is time to fly your flag at half mass. (DesignerLife Learning Cafe)
  • The flag is flown at half mass, or in the middle of the flagpole, on Memorial Day. People do that to honor those Americans who died fighting for their country. (link)
  • Has anyone been to Disney since the attack on the USA? I keep receiving e-mails that Disney refuses to fly flags at half mass. (The Magical Mouse forum, September 19, 2001)
  • […]
    The book you have written and passed to your troops
    Is missing some lines and some very big loops
    A country in morning for loved ones that past
    A country that stands by its flag at half mass
    […] (Sgt. Moms)
  • the flag flew at half-mass today
    to cover the scars, to cover the pain
    all the heads are hung in shame
    the flag flew at half-mass today
    […] (Almost Smart, Writer's Forum, Jan 24, 2004)

Analyzed or reported by:

| 4 comments | link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/10/27 |

die » dye

Chiefly in:   the dye is cast

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “The dye is cast. The people will speak and I am hoping that the outcome will be an MDC victory,” he told reporters. (CNN, March 31, 2005)
  • Once the PR and marketing dye is cast, what’s a creative person to do? (OzOnline)
  • There are dead suns, smoldering suns, and lit suns, and the dye is cast in this matter when the suns are first formed. (ZetaTalk, Jul 15, 1995)
  • No, the media will make sure that the public knows good and well who Wes Clark is by the time the dye is cast. (Pipeline, blog entry, September 16, 2003)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Tom Rossen (via Mark Liberman, in e-mail)

Rarer, maybe, than the reinterpetation of _the die is cast_ as referring to moulds and molten metal, this eggcorn is nonetheless genuinely present for some people. On the _Phrase Finder_ site, a poster writes:

> “Die is cast” as in throwing dice, I presume. I always thought it was “dye is cast” as in coloring something. Oh, well.

| 3 comments | link | entered by Chris, 2005/10/14 |

object » option

Chiefly in:   money is/was no option

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “If money was no option: I would still be doing what I’m doing: being a singer, a performer, an entertainer.” (link)
  • “What would you be eating for dinner if money was no option?” (link)
  • “money is no option here, i dont care how much it costs, i want her to have a great night.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Wilson Gray (American Dialect Society mailing list, 3 October 2005)

Wilson Gray quoted, “We were taken to parties in stretch limos with drivers, free drinks,
and everything. Money was no option.” And I was off on a Google web search, which netted huge numbers of relevant occurrences of “money is/was no option”.

The contribution of “object” to the semantics of “money is/was no object” — (the availability of) money is no barrier, meaning money doesn’t have to be considered, any amount can be spent — seems to be hard for many people to tease out, and they settle on “no option” (conveying, I guess, that there’s no need to choose on the basis of monetary considerations) as making more sense.

| 1 comment | link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/10/03 |

I'll be darned » all be darned

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “There are zillions of SPAM concoctions on the internet - everything from Rack of Spam to Spammus to Spam soup. But all-be-darned if I couldnt find one for SPAM cake.” (E-mail to Jeff Shaumeyer, quoted on his blog (
  • “…you know, all be darned, I have never seen that before. never. I know the rule, … I’ve known it all My Life, and all be darned, there it Is.” (link)
  • “… well all be darned if that didnt work!!! Thx alot!!!! not understanding how it is working cause line 28 and 29 are the else statements for setting the …” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Chris Ambidge, David Fenton (Usenet newsgroup soc.motss, 2-3 October 2005)

Hundreds of Google web hits, some (like the first cite above) with hyphens, most without. The first cite was quoted on soc.motss by Chris Ambidge, and he and David Fenton both immediately realized the possibly eggcornic character of the expression. (This quotation also illustrates overnegation; the meaning expressed is one that would be rendered in standard English as “I’ll be darned if I could find one for SPAM cake” ‘I couldn’t find one for SPAM cake’.)

The vowel of the contraction “I’ll” is often monophthongized, even by speakers (like me) who don’t generally monophthongize /aj/. This yields something that could easily be interpreted as a variant of “darn it all”.

There are some parallel occurrences of “all be damned” to be found among the many irrelevant hits — for instance: “It may be all style and shock value, but
all be damned if it doesn’t look good.” (link)

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/10/03 |

shrift » shift

Chiefly in:   short shift

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • Unlike Soderbergh’s Traffic, whose compelling characters sometimes get short shift in favor of examining the drug trade in as many ways possible, Last Resort takes care to always put the story first. (The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, Feb. 22, 2001)
  • Teachers encouraged her to go to stage school, but her father pulled her out after three months because “nobody else in the community sent their daughters there”. Ballet lessons, too, got short shift. (The Guardian, Aug. 21, 2003)
  • There’s another problem — because of the rise of the hip-ness of American bands, British indie-bands are getting the short-shift. (The Stanford Daily Online, Oct. 3, 2003)
  • Sometimes restaurants that specialize in beef give short shift to the other menu choices, but that’s not the case at Rio Chama. (Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 12, 2005)

The origin of _short shrift_ is explained by here, here, and here.

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/09/12 |