touch » torch

Chiefly in:   torch paper

Classification: English – /r/-dropping

Spotted in the wild:

  • Was it really ‘outside agitators’ who sparked the trouble? Or once the torch paper was lit, did Muslim youth exploit the opportunity to exact retribution on ancient Hindu rivals? (Red Action Bulletin, July/Aug. 2001)
  • Laws lights the torch paper …
    “We have got to go at them from the start, when we kick off on Wednesday evening the torch paper will be lit.” (, May 11, 2003)
  • Contrary to what many scientists such as Stephen Hawking seem to suppose, the role of the Creator is not to light the blue torch paper of the big bang and then retire, but continuously to hold the world in being. (Canyon Institute Newsletter, Fall 2003)
  • But it was his willingness to run back a kick by Paul Grayson, take on Jason Robinson on the outside and offload to the supporting Tyrone Howe which lit the torch paper for Ireland to cut loose in the third quarter. (Irish Times, Mar. 9, 2004)
  • Ronald Reagan’s legacy in Asia is most visible today on the Afghan-Pakistan frontier, where his drive to end the Cold War climaxed with the CIA-backed humiliation of the Soviets in Afghanistan but lit the torch-paper of radical Islam that spawned Al-Qaeda. (News24, South Africa, June 7, 2004)

Analyzed or reported by:

_Touch paper_ refers to a kind of paper soaked in potassium nitrate that was once commonly used in the UK as a fuse for fireworks. It lives on in the metaphorical expression _light the (blue) touch paper_.

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/07/16 |

arsed (or assed) » asked

Chiefly in:   can't be asked , half-asked

Classification: English – idiom-related – /r/-dropping

Spotted in the wild:

  • Me and Ali were debating and I was coming up with a complex system to form a utopia but it got REAL complex after a while, but it basically involved a super computer and everyone owning an equal sized patch of land and resources which they could share with others IF they wanted to if they agreed with each other on opinions to form like minded countries. There was a whole lot more to it but I can’t be asked to type it. (link)
  • Its finally half term(praise the lord!) and no doubt i’m gonna be sleeping,eating and…er sleeping all week. I need to do sociology cs/wk…but shit..i can’t be asked to do it…*poof*.. (link)
  • To me, a munchkin is someone who cannot be bothered to develop a personality for his or her character regardless of anything that is going on in the campaign. That’s what my 8 points were about. It’s the player who simply can’t be asked to role play in any way shape or form. That’s what makes munchkins so much not fun to play with. (link)
  • Children watch MTV, dress all scantily, think the people on Girls Gone Wild RULE, and do all kinds of provocative stuff at a younger age than I ever did. […] Gay marriage is just one of those things becoming more accepted by younger people, and frankly, the parents are frightened. Parents can’t be asked to raise thier kids! So of course, they want the BIG GOVERNMENT to do it for them, through laws! (link)
  • You either do it right and get meaningful data, or you do it half-asked and end up with meaningful sounding numbers that are devoid of anything substantial. (, blog comment, Jan 3, 2006)
  • A half-asked effort produces half-asked results. (Bodybuilding forum, February 12, 2002)

Analyzed or reported by:

On our Contribute! page, Simon reports this reshaping of a slang expression that, according to him, “has become common in England and Wales over the last ten years”. Indeed, he notes that _can’t be asked_ and _can’t be arsed_ sound nearly if not totally the same in some English accents.

A Google search suggests that the idiom _I can’t be arsed [doing/to do…]_ is still essentially British: 69,700 GHits with the spelling _arsed_ vs. only 3,880 that employ the American English equivalent _assed_.

However, an informal survey among a small number of American English speakers hinted at this idiom enjoying a growing popularity in the US while retaining the British English spelling _arsed_, “to express a quaint Englishness”, as one person put it.

That the form _can’t be asked_ is indeed an eggcorn, and not merely the result of deliberately weakening a taboo term, was confirmed to me by Jeannie Cool, who, citing the authority of a friend of hers, expressed the opinion that _can’t be asked_ was the original, “correct” term (and should therefore be the one employed in writing) whereas _arsed_ was what she saw as a slang corruption.

Several of the above examples were selected because they occur on web pages that contain other taboo words a short distance from the quoted passage and are therefore unlikely to have been used in order to avoid writing _arsed_.

_My thanks to the members of the `#suwcharman` and `#wordpress` IRC channels on `freenode` for reports on their usage._

[Update C.W., May 21, 2006: Added Ken Lakritz’s _half-asked_, with cites. The addition makes this something of a hybrid eggcorn. The idiom _can’t be arsed_ is clearly British, whereas _half-assed/arsed_ appears across English varieties. The spelling of the latter doesn’t seem to follow a clear-cut distribution. The Guardian Unlimited site, for example, contains, according to Google, 117 occurrences of _half-arsed_, but also 77 of _half-assed_.]

| Comments Off link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/07/10 |

stark raving » stalk raving

Chiefly in:   stalk raving mad

Classification: English – /r/-dropping

Spotted in the wild:

  • Why are there kids playing in the lap pool? That is what the other pool is for!!!! I would be stalk raving mad too!!!! (link)
  • Not only does he express the inner thoughts of Willhelm, yet shows a personal side which expresses the crown prince’s poryphia stricken reduced him to a stalk raving mad wildabeast. Not only was he stalk raving mad, the wildabeast confronted his homosexual tendencies with Eulenburg and Walderee. ( customer review)
  • They will probably be mobbed by stalk raving mad girls. (link)
  • I’m not a stalk-raving-mad-scientist-full-blown-aficionado-coffeegeek yet….yet. (
  • Then emailed a bunch of Mac applications home, only to have them look like the alphabet gone stalk raving mad (link)
  • You would be surprized at how much one person could listen to the same 3 beatles tapes over and over and over again without going stalk raving mad. (link)

See also _stark raven mad_ and _star-craving mad_.

| Comments Off link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/07/04 |

downright » darn right

Classification: English – /r/-dropping

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Carrying a backpack with a sunburned back or shoulders will be darn right painful.” (link)
  • About Vicks VapoRub: “Ahh! Icy cool. Just like a Peppermint Patty. Is this soothing or darn right uncomfortable?” (link)
  • “Adventure is the key to a full, rich life. When broadly defined, it can be incorporated in every nook and cranny of a person’s being. Adventure is electrifying, energizing and, well… darn right scary at times.” (link)
  • “The skiing, even during good snow conditions, is challenging. During bad snow conditions it can be darn right dangerous.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • James Callan (American Dialect Society mailing list, 17 June 2005)

Citations provided by Callan in his ADS-L posting. Many thousands of Google hits, though some are for “darn right” as a euphemized “damn right”, a usage that undoubtedly contributed to “downright” >> “darn right”.

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/06/18 |

so to speak » sort of speak

Classification: English – /r/-dropping

Spotted in the wild:

  • You don’t need a plane ticket or passage on the QE2…cause, right beside the bar there’s an old IBM PS/2, as ancient and weather worn as Dan, hooked up to the Internet. Inter-Island Communications and Wireless guarantee’s a connection every time or you get a cool rum swizzle at Dockside with their compliments. User’s have been known to intentionally pull the plug sort of speak, just to get a free drink! (link)
  • Not because I really believed it myself, but because it paid off, sort of speak. I believe I was afraid of loosing her, if I didn’t sympathize with her. … (link)
  • Email I think Im Back Who has figured out a way to display a third persone view of things(sort of speak). It’s simple enough to … (link)
  • I still go thru withdrawals while doing this but I’m just biteing the bullet sort of speak. the doctor told … (link)
  • I haven’t written a nything in a long time about Pokémon, so I thought I would come out with a three part “saga”, sort of speak, which will include my take … (link)

The examples above were supplied to me in e-mail by Laura Whitton on 12 March 2005. The eggcorn was already noted on this site by astarte93, in a comment on the “eggcorn” entry itself.

Certainly a reanalysis, in several senses, though it’s hard to see “sort of speak” as an improvement on “so to speak”. It could have arisen in a mishearing and then spread.

(And note the verb “loosing” in the “not because I really believed it myself” cite. See the entry on “loose”.)

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/03/17 |