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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2009-02-21 12:41:18

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2198
Website

to the nail < tooth and nail

An anonymous user submitted this one on the Wikipedia eggcorn page, and Chad (cnilep) moved it to the talk page for discussion. I like it!
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It’s been around a while. Paul Kay reported it in a list of “misparsed idioms” (pretty close cousins to eggcorns) way back in 1992, [http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9206e&L=linguist&P=483]. It is also listed among the “Farberisms” at http://www.cs.arizona.edu/icon/oddsends/farber.htm, last updated in 1997.
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Here are some examples:

“I believe that it is the right thing to do, and I would fight to the nail on the issue if that is what students want,” she said.

They will fight to the nail and teeth for they have much more to lose.

My brother and I call him ‘Scraps’ for his ability to fight to the nail for a rebound or steal.

Well, I can tell you that we are going to fight to the nail to hold our pricing policy.

Women will whine about being objectified while fighting to the nail to be in a video that supposedly objectifies women

The second example, where the teeth are reintroduced (after having been deintroduced in the eggcorning process) after the eggcorn is especially fun.
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The eggcorned shape fits a series of idioms such as “to the max”, “to the hilt” (itself a “fastenating” construction), “to the limit”, “to the death”, “to the finish”, all describing the carrying of some process “to the (bitter) end”; most of these commonly collocate with fight . They are part of much wider family of “to the N” constructions indicating direction to some goal.
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It is not clear what nail is in mind; fingernails come most easily to my thinking, but that may be because those are the nails of “tooth and nail”.
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Maybe this nail is the same sort of thing as the tacks in “getting down to brass tacks”.
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Or perhaps the idea is that one will fight with whatever weapon is available, down to (and including) one’s fingernails.
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In any case, restructuring “tooth and” to “to the” makes this a beautiful eggcorn for me.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2009-02-21 21:27:21)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#2 2009-02-22 14:56:00

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2641

Re: to the nail < tooth and nail

A beauty, indeed.

I have the impression that “to the nail” conveys to many of the users the idea of “to the fingernail.” In other words, we have used and broken all of the weapons we brought to the fight and now we have nothing left to battle with but our animal claws.


Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.

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#3 2009-02-22 17:28:28

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2198
Website

Re: to the nail < tooth and nail

Yes, that sounds right.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#4 2009-02-23 12:53:45

nilep
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-03-21
Posts: 291

Re: to the nail < tooth and nail

Yes, I like it both on eggcornological and aesthetic grounds. Phonologically the reshaping is entirely plausible, and as David suggests, there is something like an idiom blend with to the hilt/max/bitter end etc. I think, by the way, that the idiom-blend character does not detract from the eggcorn character; the existence of to the N simply helps to strengthen the resonance of to the nail in the mind of some perpetrators.

Obligatory Google search: I find 18 unique Google hits for “fight to the nail”. Two of them are mentions – Paul Kay’s list of misparsed idioms on Linguist List and a page of “Farberisms” – and two might be puns (advertisements for T-shirts reading, “Toe Fu: Fight to the nail”). That leaves a small but suggestive list of eggcorn-like reshapings. See David’s earlier post for examples. (I also find “fight to the nail and teeth” especially interesting.)

Last edited by nilep (2009-02-23 12:54:21)

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#5 2009-02-23 13:18:25

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2198
Website

Re: to the nail < tooth and nail

nilep wrote:

Yes, I like it both on eggcornological and aesthetic grounds. Phonologically the reshaping is entirely plausible,

Well, I’ve been thinking about that. The most normal pronunciation of structures like to the end has to fully destressed (“fíght tŏ thĕ énd”), and that pronunciation doesn’t fit very well with tooth and nail . But it can be pronounced “fíght tó thĕ énd”, and the initial eggcorning probably involved that kind of pronunciation: “fíght tóoth ănd náil” >> “fíght tó thĕ náil”.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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