Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I was just browsing through the most recently added entries in the database and found Professor Zwicky’s Sept. 15 entry for might >> my. The examples are all in the context “might as well” becoming “my as well”.
The first thought that occurred to me was, “couldn’t these just be typos, omitting the first a in may as well?” That seems to me to be a smaller leap than substituting my for might. The discussion in the database entry doesn’t address the question, which I thought was curious.
So then I did the Google thing. About 20K ghits, but a large fraction of them are bogus (intervening punctuation). For the genuine ones, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to prefer one explanation to the other. I googled “may as well” for a raw count, getting 2.1M ghits. 20K/2.1M is a rate of less than 1%, which seems quite reasonable as a typo rate.
Could it be that Prof. Zwicky just didn’t think of this explanation? Or did he discount it, without mentioning why?
Last edited by Eggstatic (2007-09-16 18:35:04)
Well, Arnold Zwicky did write “They aren’t great examples of eggcorns, because they don’t (as Ben Zimmer observed to me about the nasal versions) make “sense” like the classic eggcorns do.”
Second, variations like “mine as well” and “minus well” show that “might as well” has, for some, frozen into an idiom that is not immediately obvious to analyze.
I think this is a case where the person speaking just drops the “T” and sort of “apostrophizes” the word as into my: Mi’s well or my’s well. People have probably heard other people saying it this way and when they go to spell it, they try to sound it out, and this is the way it ends up. I know I’ve heard people speak it that way (perhaps it’s a Midwestern thing?).
Feeling quite combobulated.
Indeed, I have heard “mi’s well” too—and I think it might have been the genesis of this database entry. But the entry is supported by Google hits spelled “my as well”, and it’s not at all clear that any of those is anything but a typo, omitting the “a” in “may”.
If “mi’s well” was overheard in the wild, it had to be interpreted by the eggcorn hunter. If it was interpreted as a slurred “might as well”, there’s no eggcorn there at all. If it was interpreted as “my as well”, you need Google hits that are either too numerous to be accounted for as typos, or distinguishable by context from accidental misspelling. (For instance, “my as well” could be rhymed with “try and sell”; that would prove that the spelling was deliberate, and a reshaping has occurred.) But I don’t see any good evidence of that.
Then of course there’s the fact that it doesn’t make sense except as an idiom, which means there’s no alternate imagery. I just don’t think this has earned its place in the database.
To be fair to Arnold Zwicky, he acknowledges that entries like ‘my as well’ and ‘beyond the pail’ aren’t really eggcorns at all. Chris Waigl too has doubts about ‘cat flat’ for ‘cat flap’. This being so, I wonder why they are there at all?
Database entries like ‘offened for offended’ and ‘to name a view’ for ‘to name a few’ would be unlikely to survive the scrutiny of forum regulars but they, unfortunately, have no input into deliberations on what achieves full eggcorn status.