Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I’ve shocked a room full of Brits into silence (during a discussion about the supremacy of British English) by asking them to spell this. Half spelled it one way and half the other, causing much confusion. Great fun.
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Good story, tylerarnold!
Here’s a conversation I stumbled upon online today. One guy “corrects” another thusly:
It’s not “towed” the line. It’s not a rope. The phrase is “toed” the line, as in, someone drew a line in the sand and you are sticking your toe across the line, challenging them.
And another guy responds with a real correction:
Close. Toeing the line means you keep your ties [sic] right at the line without crossing it, thus you are specifically obeying all of the rules and not challenging authority.
It’s nice when we encounter people explaining their understood meanings rather than our having to surmise about them to figure out whether something is an eggcorn or not.
Lakoff thinks that half of all people understand “toe the line” as “tow the line:” http://chronicle.com/article/Your-Brain … _medium=en
My guess is that half of that half are simpling writing what they hear without thinking about the meaning at all. For them, it isn’t an eggcorn—just a misspelling.
I’m pretty certain “tow the line” is an eggcorn. The semantic attraction between “line” and “tow,” and the lack of a connection between “line” and “toe” for those who don’t know the story behind the idiom, hatches the eggcorn.