Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I’ve heard this in Maryland and New Jersey, USA. Is it an eggcorn or merely corruption?
Yes, “flushes” as in “flushed with color”.
Last edited by FifiSteinweg (2007-01-05 19:19:12)
I’d never heard of “hot flushes” until I Googled it. I thought “hot flashes” was the correct term.
Like Buzhwa, I thought “hot flashes” was the standard term. Google gives 1,141,000 hits for “hot flashes” and 418,000 for “hot flushes.” “Flashes” is ahead by a better than 2 to 1 margin, but they’re both obviously widely used.
The Wikipedia article is nicely equivocal—the article headword is “hot flush,” but the beginning of the article per se refers to “Hot flash,” which is then used throughout; “hot flush” is only parenthetically mentioned as a variant.
Could this be a British/American split?
Ken, if you’re around, do you have a professional opinion on this one?
Widely used, perhaps, but “hot flashes” doesn’t make much sense and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Last edited by FifiSteinweg (2007-01-08 04:54:02)
Well, whose scrutiny? “Hot flashes” withstands the gimlet-eyed scrutiny of the lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary; they list both “flashes” and “flushes” without further comment:
hot flashes, flushes pl., a menopausal symptom which manifests itself by a momentary sensation of heat, freq. accompanied by a heightening of facial colour and perspiration[....]
And doctors and professional editors don’t seem to have a problem with the phrase. Using the advanced search function on books.google.com, I found “hot flashes” on p. 293 of The Oxford Handbook of Palliative Care (2005), on p. 345 of The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry (2005), and on p. 20 of Hormone Use in Menopause and Male Andropause (2003); all three books have passed under the scrutiny of the notoriously picky editors at the Oxford University Press. There were over 900 other citations in printed books.
Whether or not the phrase makes sense to individual speakers of English, it’s clearly standard usage.
Standard usage. Accepted by all those aforementioned authorities. I sigh! Such a permissive society we live in!
Alright, I accept that it’s widely used and sanctioned, but WHY? One becomes flushed with color, not flashed; the color doesn’t come and go in a flash. Using “flashes” in this sense is simply nonsense. Like so many eggcorns (and don’t misunderstand me, I love ‘em when they’re caught and caged – and sterilized), this is an example of English for the hard of thinking.
Fifisteinweg’s points are well taken, but I would point out that many eggcorns exist because nothing is obvious to the uninformed. I too have heard the usage “hot flashes” exclusively and have always assumed that they come on in a flash. But indeed, perhaps the “authorities” should know better than to propagate this misunderstanding. I would further point out that the Medical community has successfully renamed medical conditions in the past; Perhaps the same will some day happen here as it seems warranted.
“The Medical community has successfully renamed medical conditions in the past…”– It’s a nice thought, but renaming seems unlikely in this case, as the conditon is so commonly discussed. Folk usage will probably prevail.
“Nothing is obvious to the uninformed…” – but it’s not entirely a matter of being informed, more a case of thinking about what we say and evaluating alternatives presented to us. I admit, though, that I was familiar with the term as “hot flushes” before I ever heard “hot flashes” and so was predisposed to question it. However, if you look at most eggcorns, they rarely make as much sense (if any at all) as the words or phrases from which they are derived.
I’m reminded of the time a schoolteacher asked me in earnest, “Influenza? Isn’t that a bit like the ‘flu?”
However, if you look at most eggcorns, they rarely make as much sense (if any at all) as the words or phrases from which they are derived.
I would have to disagree with you on this one point. For a word alteration to qualify as an eggcorn, it must possess a meaning (or imagery) which the utterer earnestly believes to be valid.
Whether the eggcorn meaning makes more or less sense than the original is sometimes a matter of perspective. If one takes a language preservation point-of-view, then I suppose that the original is always best. On the other hand, if one likes to marvel at the reshaping of language, then many eggcorns present serious contenders for revised sense.