Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2018-04-11
This comes from an msn conversation with my younger sister (who is 17) – this is the only evidence I have of it but I’m pretty sure it qualifies as an eggcorn. I used the word prude, and she asked what it meant. When given the explanation, she claimed that the word was ‘prune.’ I can see why: a prune is dry and shriveled, words that could conceivably be applied to a sexually-repressed person as well. Here’s the msn conversation to prove that it wasn’t just a typo:
S: prude? whats that?
S: no really…what does it mean?
S: yes prude
M: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prude. basically the opposite of easy
S: i thought that was prune
M: no that’s a dried plum
S: hahaha yeah i KNOW but arent they the smae thing
M: no, it’s prude
Obviously the last word is a typo, but it’s still clear that she wanted to type prune.
So, what do you think? Does this count as an eggcorn?
Tell her that a PRUDE has PRIDE, and will not flop down PRONE for any PROUD PREENing PRAWN who P’RADEs past. A PRUDE has PRUNEd her imagination and her urges.
“old prude” has 685 ghits, “old prune” has 16000 hits. I think this makes a good case for the idiom “old prune”’s popularity. It’s easy to see why there would be confusion between the terms since old prunes would often seem prudish in nature, certainly embracing old-fashion views concerning sexuality. “Old prune” is used to describe an old person (usually a woman), but as the following examples point out, sometimes there is a blending with allusion to sexuality.
To make things worse, I’m a old prune who is desperate to stay young and lust … So the old prune part of me should stay
home and read readings while the …
dot-dottie-dot.blogspot.com/2005_01_01_archive.html – 71k
Listening to some dried-up old prune thunder about the evils of the flesh, Neely mused, with the cross … She wasn’ta dried-up old prune. Far from it. ...
Instead of sexy young Michele doing the cheer, wouldn’t truth in advertising require that a dried-up old prune of a woman wearing a Gawd-awful print dress …
wonkette.com/politics/michelle-malkin/malkins-site-now-requires-adult-id-check-255240.php – 133k
What usually comes to mind is some old prune who is terrified that somewhere in the world somebody might be having a good time. ...
All said, I think it’s a good case for an eggcorn. I suppose one could make the case for an idiom blend, but it’s on an imagery level so it still stays in the eggcorn realm. I think it’s the strong imagery of “prune” as in “old prune” that qualifies it as an eggcorn of “prude”.
I think I’m with Blandford on this one. I’ve heard “old prune” all my life, and have never particularly associated it with prudishness. I too think of wrinkles when I hear the phrase, and nearly all occurrences of “wrinkled old prune” appear to refer to people; the phrase gets 1230 raw hits and 89 unique ones. (For comparison, “old prude” gets 459 unique hits, so 89’s pretty good for a 3-word string.) There is nevertheless one hit for “wrinkled old prude,” so Milena’s sister is probably not alone. But I think most instances of old prune/prude are probably independent of each other.
I’ve heard “prude” used to describe someone who wasn’t “easy” since I was a little boy in the early sixties. I don’t hear it used much, anymore. If you didn’t want to “make out” with someone, you were a prude. Later, I figured it must be short for someone who is prudent, although the OED says prude came from a different origin:
1704, from Fr. prude “excessively prim or demure woman” (also an adj.), first recorded in Molière, from O.Fr. preude “good, virtuous, modest,” perhaps an ellipsis of preudefemme “a discreet, modest woman.
The reason “prune” seemed an eggcorn to me is because it was not used in its usual context of “old prune” or “prune-face” – it’s just “prune”, with no modifiers. That, and the fact that in the original example “prune” is referring to modesty. So, I thought, what could possibly be the imagery to qualify it as an eggcorn? As you can see, I gave it my best shot. If it remains unconvincing, that’s okay. But, does anyone else have a plausible explanation as to the substitution?
Another thought: “Old Prude” is a cliche, as “Amicable Divorce,” “Trusty Steed,” “Faithful Retainer,” et cetera. However, prunes actually are relatively old. That is how they get to be prunes. They are old plums. So, to say “Old Prune” is redundant. But the expression Old Prune is consistent with the oldness of the Old Prude.
Nota bene: As prior posters have noted, and as I know from experience back in the 1960s, it is possible to be a young prude, but nobody ever says, “young prude.” If a prude is young, we just call her or him a prude.
So! My point, finally: If somebody says, “Old Prune,” it probably is an eggcorn in the tradition of the very word Eggcorn itself, since it involves the natural fruit of a tree. However! If somebody calls an old, dried-out person a “prune” or a “raisin,” or a “leathery piece of buffalo jerky,” it probably is a metaphor.
Last edited by Tom Neely (2007-12-02 20:35:38)
Just a bit of documentation to justify calling this an eggcorn.