Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
This one puzzles me a bit. I first ran into it when reading the novel Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. This was on page 219 (the sentence is long and complex; I’ve just given the relevant clause):
“and carried him up the stairs like a minnow riding the quest of a wave.”
I thought it was a fluky typo, but I’ve found a small number of the same substition elsewhere. “Crest” is a pretty common word and doesn’t seem particularly odd in the phrase “crest of a wave.” So why is this replacement happening? The only explanation I can come up with is something of a reach. Here in California, variants of the phrase “in quest of the perfect wave” pop up occasionally in newspaper and magazine articles on surfer culture – it’s almost a low-frequency fixed phrase. Could this be causing interference? One of my examples is from New Zealand, which may or may not be a piece of counter-evidence for my theory. In any case, I think “quest of a wave” has to be a malapropism rather than an eggcorn. Examples:
Villa Maria is riding a perennial quest of a wave that is set in motion at their stunning new winery complex set inside the caldera of the extinct Waitomokia volcano in Mangere.
The artistic standards have been shunned in favor of less than stellar quality and riding the quest of the wave of Helfgott’s sucess from the film ‘Shine’.
“Riding the quest of a wave just West of Hollywood” – There is a community called West Hollywood (which is west of Hollywood geographically). West of West Hollywood (driving west on Sunset Boulevard) leads to the beaches along the West Coast and (thus)the Pacific Ocean.
The writer in that final example is glossing a lyric from the Steely Dan song “West of Hollywood” (from the album Two Against Nature). Here are the words as given on a lyrics website:
I’m way deep into nothing special
Riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of Hollywood
http://www.lyricsdepot.com/steely-dan/w … ywood.html
Perhaps it’s a bit of an idiom blend: “on a quest” plus “on the crest of a wave.” Even so, I’m not opposed to viewing the final construction as an eggcorn since the former idiom is a weak one and the blend retains the notion of a certain journey taking place. But most of all “quest” is a credible mishearing of “crest,” and someone who does not know the term “crest” (as the ridge of a wave) may very well understand the concept of a quest. Finally, the combined notion “the quest of a wave” does not seem all that farfetched as far as malapropisms might go. Overall, I like this one quite a bit.
Last edited by jorkel (2007-03-12 19:00:20)
I think you’re right about the possibility of an idiom blend, and I may well have discounted the eggcornish possibilities of this one too quickly. I would have thought that “crest” was firmly “non-obscure,” but maybe not.