Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Given the base word heave, one should not be surprised by the creation of “unheaval” where “upheaval” is intended. But is it a simple misuse or an eggcorn?
Mountmellick Whitework HistoryIn the 1850’s, Ireland was in the midst of famine due to a nation-wide failed potato crop, political unheaval, and industrialization from Europe and England …
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ITBulletin 1For others, however, Web Services is a remainder that instablity and unheaval are going to rework certain businesses and their revenue models. ...
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Pamela Stonebrooke’s Reptilian EncountersSince then, she has had numerous encounters with reptilian beings, who she believes are preparing her for an apocalyptic planetary unheaval: “I think we’re …
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Asia Finest Discussion Forum > Should USA get out of Iraq… many terrorist groups have strategically caused the devisive unheaval of religious segration, which saw violent reactions between both the Sunnis and …
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Huh. I wouldn’t have thought that up-/un- substitution could be at all common. “Unvoiced stops” like p (as in “up-”), t, and k are usually interchanged with other unvoiced stops in eggcornish reshapingsA; off the top of my head, I can’t think of a widespread eggcorn that substitutes an n for one of the stops (need to go check this out). But a simple experiment showed that “unheaval” isn’t alone. The citations below are of “unroar” for “uproar” (there are at least dozens of examples), and I bet there are more up/un substitutions out there. Examples:
Here in Canada there has been a bit of an unroar because many highly skilled immigrants are lured to the country with the promise of great opportunities, but when they get here they find either that their credentials don’t carry over, or that they find it extremely difficult to get a job in their given field (and often end up cab drivers, etc).
http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftw … xReplies=4
Towns and cities are in an unroar.
The idea that anyone thinks traffic tickets are for “safety” has
always amused the hell outta me.
Maybe he knew that the nomination would create a huge unroar.
http://malitzminutes.blogspot.com/2005_ … chive.html
Jorkel—by the way, your third example (the one about the imminent apocalyptic unheaval to be caused by extraterrestrial reptilians) claims the LA Weekly as the original source. The LA Weekly archives wouldn’t let me go back that far, but if true it means that editors at a wellknown alternative weekly have given “unheaval” a green light. I wonder how widespread this thing is.
I wouldn’t have thought that up-/un- substitution could be at all common. “Unvoiced stops” like p (as in “up-”), t, and k are usually interchanged with other unvoiced stops in eggcornish reshapingsA; off the top of my head, I can’t think of a widespread eggcorn that substitutes an n for one of the stops (need to go check this out).
This might be a good place to discuss the origins of eggcorns. Pat has occasionally expressed the above viewpoint about closely voiced sounds. In the current case, “up” and “un” would be very different in the way they are formed in the mouth, but “had” and “hat” might be easily mistaken for one another. So, perhaps Pat might argue that the closeness-of-sound might be a criterion for the formation of an eggcorn.
One extrapolation/interpretation of Pat’s message is that the listener hears a phrase, actively tries to interpret it at the time of hearing it, and files it away in his brain—either correctly or incorrectly (in the form of an eggcorn). So, with this mechanism of eggcorn formation, one is less likely to generate stray beasts where, say, an “up” gets replaced by an “un.”
My own viewpoint of eggcorn generation is a little broader. I have a “lazy listener – foggy recollector” theory whereby a person hears a language construct and tucks away attributes of the construct in his brain, but doesn’t fully analyze it until the construct is needed in speech. At that later time, the brain may have a foggy recollection of the original. Perhaps the brain recalls the number of syllables and the vowel sounds, but is a little hazy on the precise consonent sounds. In this way, an “up” could indeed be replaced by an “un”—particularly if it follows a grammatical (rules-based) pattern.
So, comparing the two viewpoints head-to-head… the first viewpoint states that an eggcorn is generated the moment a phrase is heard incorrectly; the second viewpoint states that an eggcorn is generated the moment a phrase is recollected incorrectly. Personally, I think many eggcorns follow the former pattern, but that the latter should not be discounted as a generation source.
Just a thought. I’d be interested in hearing some feedback.
Last edited by jorkel (2007-02-06 13:53:15)
The main thing I meant to imply in my comment was that “un-” as a replacement for “up-” surprised me a bit. I certainly wasn’t attempting to lay the groundwork for a general theory of eggcorn formation.
I think it’s pretty clear that closeness of sound has something to do with eggcornish substitutions (though defining “close” is a big problem). But I’m not at all sure how to go from that observation to a broader claim. Personally, I don’t think the observation necessarily implies any specific theory about why/how people produce eggcorns; it’s easy for me to imagine that any number of different, competing hypotheses might still take the “similar sound” idea as a working assumption. I’m pretty sure that mishearing and faulty recollection must both be involved somehow, but beyond that I’m made of ignorance.
I doubt I’ll ever offer a general theory about eggcorn formation. There are so many technical issues that seem to me to impinge on this —phonology, morphology, neurolinguistics, acoustics, sociolinguistics, etc.—that I just don’t feel I know enough. Or that I ever will.