Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
In recent letter to the New York Review of Books, pop music nutcase/genius Van Dyke Parks quotes his own lyrics (for Brian Wilson’s album Smile) as “Columnaded ruins domino…”
The mistake is easy enough to understand—Google retrieves about 600 hits for “columnade,” and another 385 for “columnaded”—and it’s of course not an eggcorn since the French word “colonne” means the same thing as “column.” But I think it’s worth noting, since the resulting word looks, on the page, like it would be quite awkward to pronounce.
Let’s consider the written word of the nutcase/genius for a moment. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt…”Columnaded”. Now, why don’t you try to pronounce this word (awkwardly if necessary). Or just put on the record, Smile, and listen to the tune in which Brian Wilson sings that word—”Surf’s Up”.
Perhaps you notice the pleasing (coincidental?) sonic resonance and reference of the words “column” and “culminated” (not to mention “colonnaded” yet) in that invention, “columnaded”—less present and less resonant, I’m afraid, in your prefered, Webster-vetted, and infinitely more Google-able “colonnaded”. I must side with Van Dyke Parks for authorial authority.
Related questions: Is the pronunciation of a word contained in, or confined by, the abstractions which represent it on the page? Also: Are we permitted to draw attention to the descrepancies between written and spoken (and sung) language? Would this be interesting and illuminating? And finally: Is the author allowed agency in any of these processes? Who has authority to play with language in this way?!? How do we know if we should trust the stated decision of the author, or some other self-appointed authority?
I propose we muse on our own, cf. the works of Saussure and others.