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#1 2006-09-27 21:20:52

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Google counts on Sept 27, 2006
21,400,000 Fahrenheit
96,100 farenheight
16,800 fahrenheight
1350 fairenheight (...or invent your own spelling)
Analysis by Joe Krozel

Fahrenheit is a temperature scale named after a German physicist. Perhaps when people have trouble spelling it, they improvise with words that capture the sounds of each syllable: “Far”, “Fair” or “Fare” for “Fahr”; and “height” for “heit.” For a while I was curious as to whether the selection of “height” might be a reference to reading the height of mercury in a thermometer. I’ll disabuse myself of this illusion for now, but doesn’t this cause any eggcorn hunters to pause and reflect on the role of eye dialect?

Examples:

Topic 4Farenheight has 32º F as freezing point and 212ºF as boiling point. ... in millimeters with references to the height of mercury column or in the millibars. ...
www.distancelearning-tz.org/geo1topic4.htm – 35k – Cached – Similar pages

CP Mailing List Archives for 1998: Celcius to Farenheight and vfrom Farenheight to Celcius and vice versa. It’s not a very “nice” ... find out the respective Farenheight temperature scale values, you can …
www.omnisterra.com/botany/cp/list/cp98all.d/1313.htm – 15k – Cached – Similar pages

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#2 2008-08-16 04:33:00

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

I’m surprised I didn’t comment on this when Joe first posted it. When I was a kid, I was convinced that “fairinheight” was a fair and accurate way of measuring the height of the mercury in the thermometer. The conviction was so strong that it cost me victory in a spelling bee I was sure was in the bag. Scars, man, scars. The Google results suggest a few others share that belief.

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#3 2008-08-16 04:37:41

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1794
Website

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Why particularly the height of the mercury? We talk about the temperatures “rising” and “falling”, and “high” and “low” temperatures: a scale of temperature “height” makes perfect sense there, even if you’ve never seen a mercury (or alcohol) thermometer.

(Not of course to deny that the height of the mercury is a perfectly reasonable semantic link.)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#4 2008-08-16 05:05:18

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Fahrenheight? Here in Canada we measure temps in degrees Sauciest.

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#5 2008-08-16 05:20:16

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Why particularly the height of the mercury? We talk about the temperatures “rising” and “falling”, and “high” and “low” temperatures: a scale of temperature “height” makes perfect sense there, even if you’ve never seen a mercury (or alcohol) thermometer.

Well, um, I was a little kid. Maybe if I’d given it that much thought I would have won the spelling bee.

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#6 2008-08-16 13:56:12

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1794
Website

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Yeah, I was actually thinking of jorkel’s mentioning of the mercury as well as yours. Again, I don’t doubt at all that many do/did have the height of the mercury in mind. I was just suggesting that understanding “height” instead of -heit works without that too. And of course both might be in mind at the same time.

I wrote a paper once on contrary scales, like when someone asks you to turn the airconditioner down and you don’t know whether they are too hot or too cold. Or when one person (overwhelmingly the wife, in my and my friends’ experience) wants something left near the front of the truck so you can get at it, and another unthinkingly says, “don’t you mean the back?” What’s up, what’s down, who’s back from the front?


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#7 2008-08-16 14:08:51

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Freely associating…

According to google, Kevin must be one cool guy: ghits( “kevin degrees” ) = 17.
Google also notes lots of icy slippage: ghits( “degrees kevin” ) = 104K.

Just in case you were wandering in the cold, the above ‘K’ is for ‘Kilo’ and not for ‘Kelvin’. Good lord, William Thomson must be spinning in his grave by now.

Btw, do retired dyslexics have a 104K pension plan?

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#8 2008-08-16 22:19:46

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Kevin has company, rogerthat. 1000 ghits (200 unique) for “degrees Calvin.”

One of the more paradoxical associations between metrics and orientation is the connection between up and “higher” pitches. It is culturally conditioned. Levitin, in This is Your Brain on Music, points out that for the Greeks a higher pitch was usually associated with a down direction (as it still is on a guitar). There have been attempts to establish the association between up and shorter sound wavelengths as a natural law, but they all end up as forms of special pleading. Think about this the next time you see a choral conductor jabbing at the ceiling to pull the soprano section out of a flat note-it is simply a convention, with no more natural authenticity than the antic signals of a third base coach. North at the top of the map and the notes climbing off the top of the treble clef on a score of the Ninth Symphony are both markers of modern Western culture.

Last edited by kem (2012-04-06 17:30:42)

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#9 2008-08-16 23:02:27

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Kem’s delightful mini-essay makes me glad I bumped up Joe’s 2-year-old post.

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#10 2008-08-17 02:12:56

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1794
Website

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

kem wrote:

One of the more paradoxical associations between metrics and orientation is the connection between up and “higher” pitches. It is culturally conditioned. Levitin, in This is Your Brain on Music, points out that for the Greeks a higher pitch was usually associated with a down direction (as it still is on a guitar). There have been attempts to establish the association between up and shorter sound wavelengths as a natural law, but they all end up as forms of special pleading. Think about this the next time you see a choral conductor reaching toward the ceiling to pull the soprano section out of a flat note-it is simply a convention, with no more natural authenticity than the antic signals of a third base coach. North at the top of the map and the notes climbing off the top of the treble clef on a score of the Ninth Symphony are both markers of modern Western culture.

I think that’s an overstatement, though I don’t know enough to speak with great authority here. I know a lot of cultures think of short-wavelength sounds as high and long-wavelength sounds as low. A lot also use a thin-thick distinction; the short-wavelength sounds are, I believe, always the thin ones. Would you have guessed differently? Cf also our own “sharp” vs. “flat” — be interesting to see if there are any cultures that would do it backwards.

There are a number of very natural associations that tend in the direction of associating up and down in this way. This kind of thing is always culturally conditioned or (I’d rather say) culturally molded, but that does not make it purely arbitrary or simply conventional. It’s like a rooster’s cry being kokoriko in Japanese, kikiriki in Spanish, cockadoodledoo in English, or the letter sounded m being named em in English, eme in Spanish, mem in Hebrew, mu in Greek: you have to know your culture’s convention for the thing, but it is not a totally arbitrary thing, but rather there is a natural (not inevitable) connection there for the cultures to mold.

Look at what people do with their throats and necks when they’re trying to hit a high note vs. a low one. Try to do it backwards.

Birds’ sounds are generally high in pitch; animals with low-pitched sounds are usually to be looked for lower down.

High-pitched sounds affect our ears most saliently. Low sounds, especially very low ones, can reverberate in our guts.

Low pitch is associated particularly with depth, and with hollow, reverberating containers or cavities, which are rarely found upwards from us.

Anyway, it would interesting to see some world-wide statistics showing how many cultures would associate the fast-frequency sounds with height vs. lowness/depth, and vice versa. I’ll bet the distribution is skewed towards the arrangement we’re used to. (Such things are pretty hard to measure. Cultures often will have different things that can be interpreted in different ways; witness the placement of guitar strings that you mentioned for our culture. I’ve seen Nahuatl cited in support of enough supposed linguistic patterns that it does not support, that I’ve gotten pretty skeptical about claims. But still, it ought to be possible to do right. Anybody in the mood to do an ethnomusicological dissertation?)

kem, what are the Greek words used for pitch?

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-08-17 02:13:54)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#11 2008-08-17 05:35:49

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

I don’t think the issue of cultural relativity is decided by majority vote. It only takes one culture or language that does something in a different way to establish that what we are looking at is cultural tradition and not natural law.

As Levitin points out in his book, low sounds can come from high places (thunder) and high sounds from low places (crickets). We use observations about nature to reinforce the prior beliefs handed to us by culture, but the observations are not proof that nature has only one perspective to teach us.

I don’t have any Greek music texts at hand-will have to look up the answer to your question. That statement about the Greek reversal of the spatial orientation metaphors was taken from Levitin. I suspect that when we look this up we will find that the Greeks were all over the map in their use of visual metaphors to describe audial experiences.

Last edited by kem (2008-08-18 20:53:59)

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#12 2008-08-17 13:19:17

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1794
Website

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

I probably had better get over to the soapbox to talk about this, but you’re scratching right on top of a very itchy place, kem! Essentially, people assume a dichotomy between exceptionless, totally predictive natural law and what is purely arbitrary, conventional, culturally imposed. The reality is that there is a vast stretch of what is reasonable in some degree but not inevitable, motivated but not predetermined, in between those two endpoints. Most of language lies there. Including, most definitely, the metaphorical/metonymical choices we make in this sort of quasi-synaesthetic amalgams.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#13 2008-08-18 21:32:07

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

“The reality is that there is a vast stretch of what is reasonable in some degree but not inevitable, motivated but not predetermined, in between those two endpoints.”

You won’t get an argument from me there. Did I mention that my background is in Hegelian and process philosophy? In my world even absoluter Geist has to bootstrap its way into self-consciousness. No unrelating Leibnizian monads in this house. But your other comment, that “people assume a dichotomy between exceptionless, totally predictive natural law and what is purely arbitrary, conventional, culturally imposed,” was the motivation behind my earlier post. People tend to populate their mental worlds with absolutized cultural constructs. It’s good to turn maps upside down once in a while, just to remember that north and up aren’t the same thing.

I suppose we are off topic. But perhaps not that far. This absolutizing tendency you have noted underlies many of the eggcorns we discuss. The human habit to round the chickens up every night and get them all in the mental coop leads to the perilous re-imaging of words and idioms.

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#14 2008-08-19 03:41:21

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Thanks for validating my eggcorn Pat. Very compelling tale of logic being dashed by the vagaries of reality —at the conclusion of a spelling bee no less!

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#15 2008-08-20 22:54:45

Jim Dixon
Member
From: St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Registered: 2006-08-11
Posts: 36

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

‘We talk about the temperatures “rising” and “falling”, and “high” and “low” temperatures’

Do we know for certain that these usages existed before thermometers existed?

Maybe people just spoke of things being hot or cold.

In fact, did the word “temperature” exist before thermometers?

Maybe someone with access to the OED can enlighten us.

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#16 2008-08-21 05:49:55

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

The word “temperature” was part of English (and Latin) long before thermometers were common. “Temperature” (and the related “temperament”) referred to the balance of the four humors in a person. The theory of temperaments and humors is old, going back at least to the Greek classical period (notably Hippocrates), but probably borrowed by the Greeks from earlier sources. The Wikipedia article on “humorism” will give you some background on this ancient psychological and medical doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humorism).

The qualities of hot and cold played a role in defining the four humors. I’m not sure when the word “temperature” began to restrict itself to the ratio of hot and cold in the balance of the humors. It seems likely that the increasing popularity of devices that measured hot and cold had something to do with co-opting “temperature” to describe what thermometers measured rather than the balance of the humors in one’s temperament.

There were devices in the classical period that were capable of measuring heat, and they measured it with a rising and falling column of water. As far as I know, however, Hippocrates did not use an analogy with these instruments to describe the proportions of heat to the four humors. His metaphors had more to do with the “prevailing” and the “mixture” of the various humors (See some of Hippocrates’s discussion of humors at http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/ancimed.mb.txt). While “rising” and “falling” could have been invoked at any time as metaphors for the influence of heat on the humors, chances are good that these metaphors hitched a ride on the popularity of vertically oriented heat measuring devices.

Most of the thermometers in my house have digital displays. Will the replacement of the mercury column thermometer undercut “rising” and “falling” as metaphors for temperature changes?

Last edited by kem (2008-08-21 05:53:11)

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#17 2008-08-21 14:16:02

nilep
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-03-21
Posts: 291

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

kem wrote:

Will the replacement of the mercury column thermometer undercut “rising” and “falling” as metaphors for temperature changes?

Rather off-topic (that is, I am. Kem wasn’t.)

I predict that the rising-falling temperature metaphor will persist, even if mercury or alcohol thermometers fall completely out of use. I’m reminded of a line I vaguely remembered line from R. Heinlein (I think) about the phrase “cutting a demo tape.” Heinlein calls this doubly anachronistic, since “demo tapes” are no longer recorded on tape, and audio tapes never were “cut” in the way wax or vinyl disks were.

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#18 2008-08-25 14:24:35

Jim Dixon
Member
From: St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Registered: 2006-08-11
Posts: 36

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

Yeah, and we still speak of “dialling” a phone number (at least I do, although I may be old-fashioned) although buttons replaced dials for most of us a long time ago.

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#19 2008-08-25 14:36:08

TootsNYC
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-06-19
Posts: 263

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

<i>I wrote a paper once on contrary scales, like when someone asks you to turn the airconditioner down and you don’t know whether they are too hot or too cold. Or when one person (overwhelmingly the wife, in my and my friends’ experience) wants something left near the front of the truck so you can get at it, and another unthinkingly says, “don’t you mean the back?” What’s up, what’s down, who’s back from the front?</i>

My husband and I cannot communicate about the multiple pockets n our backpacks. His ‘front pocket’ is my back. In fact he’s gotten me so confused before that I can’t even tell you right now whether “front” to me is front when you take it off, or front when you have it on. (I think “take it off and look at it, the smallest pocket facing you”)

I live in an apartment bldg in which our foyers open either onto the stairway (w/ windows facing the street), or an elevator entirely in the center of the building. To me, the “front” door is the stairway door, because it faces the front of the building. It doesn’t hurt that this is the door I usually come in through, bcs w live on the 2nd floor.

But my neighbors on 3 and up refer to the elevator door as their “front” door. (they never use the stairs) But even if I lived on a higher floor, I still couldn’t use that as the “front” door; front to me means front of the building. I’d say “elevator” or “stairwell” door.

Re: “rising” and “falling”—the NUMBERS will still go up or down, so yes, we’ll keep that metaphor. It won’t be parallel to “dialing” a phone.

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#20 2008-08-25 15:03:02

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1794
Website

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

My wife and I had the same conversation this week. I suggested she look in the front compartment of my backpack for something, and she immediately started looking in the back. We got it straightened out, eventually.

An interesting thing happened in the early days of graphic interfaces. We have this pervasive (and naturally motivated, though not absolute) MORE is UP metaphor, so an up-arrow often corresponds to a “higher” number. However, there is also the strongly-established LATER is DOWN THE PAGE convention: if you list points in a topic, for instance, 1 is at the top of the page, 2 and 3 further DOWN. For a while, in some programs, an up-arrow meant MORE for a dollar amount, but earlier (=LESS) for a date or time. All you could do was negotiate with the program: press an arrow and see what happened, then act accordingly. Much as you do in the human-human communication situation.

Gaining vs. losing an hour when daylight-savings time begins or ends is another fun one engendering almost endless confusion. When you gain an hour you have lost an hour out of your day, when you fall back you are actually ahead one hour in one conventional way of speaking. You often have to fall back on saying, “If your clock says two o’clock, set it to three”, or verce visa.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#21 2008-08-25 17:13:20

TootsNYC
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-06-19
Posts: 263

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

In the publications I work on, we say ”(see below),” when the actual text might be physically to the right and up about 3 inches.

Last edited by TootsNYC (2008-08-25 17:13:34)

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#22 2008-08-25 22:19:56

JonW719
Eggcornista
From: Colorado
Registered: 2007-09-05
Posts: 285

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

TootsNYC, I can remember seeing that as a kid (see below/above) and taking it quite literally! It bothered me if it was on a previous or following page rather than place above below the reference on the same page.

I grew up in Michigan, where we have a lower and upper peninsula. When my family went on vacation, we usually went “up north.” Later, I had an acquaintance who would often refer to a town north of where we lived and say “I’m going to run down to [name of town],” and it very much threw me. I would say, “You mean ‘up,’” but the entire time I knew him, he continued to use that expression. (I always sort of wondered if he used “down” because the town was considerably smaller than ours.) So at least to an extent, it would seem that north as up and south as down are conditioned rather than somehow inherent.

Last edited by JonW719 (2008-08-25 22:22:18)


Feeling quite combobulated.

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#23 2012-04-06 16:19:10

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1202

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

I liked “degrees Calvin”. Today’s weather in Hell.

Here’s a new double-yolker. There’s the local temperature scale, in degrees Calvin say, and then there’s that other scale on the oven, the one I’m not too familiar with, in degrees Foreign Height.

Heat oven to 375 degree foreign height (190degree Celsius).
Cast iron cookery

Acronym: FH
Definition: Foreign Height
Acronym Geek

The java Programm that read temperature in celsius and convert it into Foreign height
Programming blog

@SizweDhlomo: Freaken 84 degrees Fahrenheit at 19:50!
Twitted response: What is that? Were you trying to spell foreign height?
Tweet

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#24 2012-04-06 17:39:42

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: FahrenHEIGHT? (-heit) ...[eye dialect?]

I like “foreign height.” The word “Fahrenheit” is, for many school children, their earliest encounter with long, strange, un-English words.

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