Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
Does this count as a hidden eggcorn? To “play fast and loose” refers to an Elizabethan con game in which suckers would bet on whether a knot would “hold fast” or “pull loose.” The game was called “Fast-and-Loose”, and its dishonest purveyors were literally trying to “play Fast-and-Loose” with passers-by.
“Fast” in this context has nothing to do with speed, and you cannot “be fast and loose” any more than you can “be three-card-Monte”.
But, to modern ears, “fast” and “loose” are not obviously opposites; the simpler interpretation of the adjective combination “fast and loose” is something like “reckless, wild, unrestrained.”
Therefore the extrapolation “faster and looser,” which makes no sense in the original context, gets 87 google hits.
Nicely argued. I’d call it an eggcorn. It’s almost as if “fast and loose” is a stealth eggcorn since it’s new meaning is only apparent in the mind of the utterer. It’s too bad that we have to wait around until someone utters “faster and looser” for it to become apparent as a full-fledged eggcorn!
Also, I’ve noticed that we’ve lost the original meaning of lots of idiomatic expressions over time, and attempts to reinterpret outdated imagery certainly seems to be a rich source of eggcorns. I’ve posted on a few before, and I’m sure there are plenty more. (For instance, “Nothing to sneeze at” occasionally morphs to “Nothing to sneer at.”)
It’s almost worth one’s while to pick up a book which explains the origins of idioms. Recently we were trying to determine the origin of “let the chips fall where they may.” Whereas people may hypothesize whether this phrase relates to poker chips, wood chips or some other chips, I would argue that this too is nothing less than a stealth eggcorn!
That’s cool! I never knew that. The context I’ve almost always heard this phrase in is “playing fast and loose with the facts”. Also interesting is that it’s usually used by lawyers, politicians, etc.- those of higher than average education. That’s one of the most fascinating aspects of all this to me; that people of high status intellectually, monetarily or otherwise are not immune to these pitfalls. My wife is very literate so I’ve had a lot of fun perusing this forum with her. She says the smartest thing I ever did was marry her, but I digress. Thanks for another interesting insight into our language and our minds!