Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
You are not logged in.
Registrations are currently closed because of a technical problem. Please send email to
The forum administrator reserves the right to request users to plausibly demonstrate that they are real people with an interest in the topic of eggcorns. Otherwise they may be removed with no further justification. Likewise, accounts that have not been used for posting may be removed.
Thanks for your understanding.
Chris -- 2018-04-11
In a post that went up today on Language Log, linguist Roger Shuy—responding to an email from Kathleen Fasanella—talks about the case of a tanker truck in New Mexico that had “Non Portable Water” written on the side: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/language … .html#more
Since tanker trucks are for transporting fluids, the label seemed a bit self-contradictory; obviously, “potable” was meant. Shuy didn’t find a lot of instances of this on Google, but I found over 800 raw hits for “non-portable water,” and most of them seem to me fairly clearly to be a case of the malapropism. All of the examples below clearly relate to potability.
Shuy notes that this confusion seems most likely in “non-rhotic” dialects in which “r” isn’t pronounced in some positions, and, interestingly, the first example I found below was from Australia.
Could this be an eggcorn, rather than merely a malapropism? Could people be rationalizing the “potable/nonpotable” distinction in terms of portability? After all, here in the US at least, we usually think of pipelines that transport water as carrying potable water. By contrast, the non-potable water used in various agricultural and industrial purposes usually isn’t transported over long distances. But I’m not sufficiently convinced by my own argument to submit this idea (which, as I said, I didn’t think of) to the list of potential eggcorns over on “Contribute.” Any thoughts? Examples:
The committee, in its consideration of this matter, questions the validity of the statutory requirement to treat the cold water supply in the Division’s laboratory buildings as non-portable, as there is no opportunity for the, otherwise, portable water supply being contaminated.
http://wwwscieng.murdoch.edu.au/admin/d … 160201.htm
If river sand was strip mined from a river bank of a river that tested
positive for total coliform and fecal coliform less than 4000 mpnc/100ml
but negative for E-coli, could it pose threat to the flora and fauna of
the country where the sand is being imported to? The river floods one
or twice a year and the mine area will be covered with the non-portable
Rainwater harvesting and management (RHM) can improve urban and peri-urban water supply and reduce effects of flooding. RHM is ideal for non-portable water uses such as car washing, flushing toilets, watering flower gardens, cleaning houses etc.
http://www.searnet.org/conference/page. … 469e8fc231
“POTTABLE” water is an eggcorn if one makes the connection to a pot for preparation—particularly in the context of camping. Campers might also be concerned with finding a source of, say, pond water, and treating it so that it can be made “portable” i.e., carried around for safe consumption. I would consider this other usage an eggcorn as well.
By the way, Klakritz mentions POTTABLE water in the comments section of the Eggcorn Database.