clink » cling

Chiefly in:   cling and clatter

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • …All this cling and clatter in my head, And what you said Is ringing, ringing faster (The song, 'Cling and Clatter', by the band Lifehouse)
  • “The cling and clatter of coffee cups and the chattering customers drowned out the sound of Michael Van London’s soft and delicate voice” (The Tech Talk Online)

It seems to have been propagated by the Lifehouse song. The original eggcorning might have resulted from the onomatopoeic quality of ‘cling’ to describe the similarly onomatopoeic ‘clink’, or perhaps, ‘clang.’ In addition, seeing that it was juxtaposed with ‘clatter’, the songwriters might have gravitated towards not using the same ‘a’ vowel sound (assuming they meant ‘clang.’)

ausgeflippt on livejournal further suggests:
“Though cling only has the meaning of “adhere to”, it’s not too far-fetched for this expression because it’s a derivative of the the German verb “klingeln”, which means to ring, to sound.”

| link | entered by Sravana Reddy, 2005/06/09 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Ben Zimmer , 2005/06/10 at 8:57 pm

    FWIW, the OED lists onomatopoetic cling back to 1578, though recently it tends to appear only in the reduplicated form cling-clang (a 1926 Glasgow Herald citation has “Bing-bang, cling-clang clatter,” not too far from “cling and clatter”).

    I’d be inclined to categorize cling here as a blend of the more common onomatopoetic forms clink and clang (both of which frequently combine with clatter). I don’t detect any eggcorniness, since “cling and clatter” (in the Lifehouse song or elsewhere) doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the adhering sense of cling.

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