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#1 2009-04-28 19:53:19

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

When someone says “it cramps my style,” what image lies behind this idiom?

The idiom “cramp one’s style” first appeared in English around the time of the First World War. The person who coined the phrase could have been thinking about two distinct meanings of “cramp.” Though both meanings ultimately derive from the same Germanic root, the two meanings came into English via different routes and have remained distinct in English and other languages for many hundreds of years. One of these meanings of “cramp” (cramp 1 ) hints at confining or constraining something, often with force. From this sense we get the name of the carpenter’s cramp (hint for North Americans–this is the same as a carpenter’s clamp). The other meaning of “cramp” (cramp 2 ) suggests a sudden contraction, often the contraction of a muscle, as in the phrase “writer’s cramp.”

But the two meanings of the noun are not always kept separate. The verbal form “to cramp,” says the OED, draws on the meanings of both the cramp 1 and cramp 2 nouns: “[the meanings] have run together in use, and have given rise to senses which partake of both notions.” So when someone says that you are “cramping his style,” he may be thinking that you are restricting his actions by metaphorically compressing his options in the jaws of a vice (cramp 1 ), or he may be thinking about an arm or a leg being drawn into the body by a knotted, spastic muscle (cramp 2 ), or he may be blending the two pictures.

Other verbs sometimes replace “cramp” in this idiom. They might count as eggcorns.

(1) If someone says you are “cramming her style” (see examples below), she may think that you are metaphorically forcing her actions into a small volume.“Cram” is not related etymologically to “cramp”-“cram” comes from an Old English term that meant to press or squeeze.

(2) When you “crap her style” you trash, dis what she does. “Crap,” of course, derives from the slang noun for feces and has no etymological connection to “cramp.”

(3,4) Then there is the person who insists that you are “crimping her style” (see examples) or “crumping her style” (more examples). In these two cases she is using English verbs that are etymologically related to the cramp 1 discussed above. The immediate German ancestor of “crimp” meant to press inward, and the German ancestor of “crump” referred to the related idea of curling up. The two English words have carried over the core senses of their Teutonic “crimp” and “crump” ancestors, so using these English verbs in place of “cramp” in the idiom “cramp one’s style” results in a slightly shifted imagery.

We could have a detailed discussion of the small imagery shifts and relative eggcorn candidacies of these four substitutions, but what we really have here, I suspect, is another of the large fuzzy spots that I mentioned in an earlier post. The hold where we store the sounds and meanings of “cramp,” “crap,” “cram,” “crimp,” and “crump” does not have strong bulkheads between the words. When we unload cargo from one of these bins, a little lading leaks from all of them.

“Crimp” examples. Web frequency: extremely frequent

Sports forum post “nice to get a paycheck but those work obligations do tend to crimp one’s style !”

Horse care forum “ Since I don’t trim my horses for show purposes, it doesn’t crimp my style to leave those fetlock hairs alone”

“Cram” examples. Web frequency: moderate

Rap lyrics “See I won’t let them cram my style

Warcraft forum post “What better way to cram his style with ‘No Air’, not only does it suffocate foes, it’s dangerously catchy and annoying!”

“Crump” examples. Web frequency: infrequent

Family blog “of course I didn’t want to crump his style so I had to wait. ”

MySpace comment “ I’m a very nice person to know so if you find me interesting(AS A FRIEND) hit me up. And if not…Please keep steppin. Don’t crump my style . It’s only MySpace.”

“Crap” examples. Web frequency: infrequent

A post about personal problems “my mother wants to stay with me the first day we arrive overnight so she can get the feel of the college. now, for a freshmen or younger teenagers, i can understand this, but im a junior and 21 years old. as you can imagine, this really really craps my style

Post about school uniforms “no student should be forced to wear and out dated outof style ugly uniform.! that soo craps my style

Last edited by kem (2009-12-29 00:54:23)

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#2 2009-04-28 22:40:05

burred
Eggcornista
From: Montreal
Registered: 2008-03-17
Posts: 937

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

I couldn’t help laughing over “it craps my style.” This is worse than mere cramping. Despite the long list of insults to one’s style, you missed one that you suggested above for North Americans: “that clamps my style.”

Role-playing site:
I’ll be honest with you though, this uniform you see, it really clamps my style, but my old duds were taken away.
(http://www.skynet.ie/~gornard/smf/index … pic=59.435)

I’d never heard the word “crump” before, except perhaps as the onomatopoeic sound of distant warfare, but not as a verb. In looking up the etymology of crump, I stumbled upon two more fun etymological resources. The first is “A dictionary of English etymology”, by Hensleigh Wedgwood and John Christopher Atkinson, from 1872 (link). The second is “English etymology”, by George William Lemon, from 1783 (link). Both can be downloaded in pdf.

Last edited by burred (2009-04-28 23:08:34)

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#3 2009-04-28 23:18:11

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

I also wondered where the “crumps my style” users came up with this ancient verb. I suspect it might be some kind of backformation (or should we say re-formation) from “crumple,” the iterative derived from the old verb. Or perhaps it’s just an on-the-fly onomatopoetic. Or a blend from “rumple” and “cramp.”

So we now have six words in the large cr*p fuzzy spot: “cramp,” “crap,” “cram,” “crimp,” “clamp” and “crump.”

Last edited by kem (2009-04-28 23:18:50)

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#4 2009-04-29 00:28:32

burred
Eggcornista
From: Montreal
Registered: 2008-03-17
Posts: 937

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

Here’s another to join the crowd:

Political blog:
I hate that having that feeling of obligation, as it crowds my style.
(http://classicalvalues.com/archives/2006_11.html)

Student blog:
Having this third entity, “school”, really crowds my style.
(snippet from www.midnightparking.com/news?page=23)

I was surprised to find the complete absence of “crabs my style.” There are several legitimate instances of “crabs his style” which refer to a crabbed writing style. The origin of “style” in reference to one’s writing hand would have made “crabs my style” a natural.

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#5 2009-04-29 02:23:06

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

The first is “A dictionary of English etymology”, by Hensleigh Wedgwood and John Christopher Atkinson, from 1872 (link).

Wedgwood was Darwin’s brother-in-law (He and Darwin would also have been first cousins, since Hensleigh Wedgwood was Josiah Wedgwood’s great-grandson. Darwin’s mother was Josiah’s daughter.). In the long preface to the dictionary Wedgwood advocates a (now somewhat derided) onomatopoetic theory for the origin of language. He also seems to borrow some ideas about the verbal mimicking of gestures from his famous brother-in-law (Darwin’s speculations are called the “ta-ta theory” in this lecture: http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling20 … nguage.htm).

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#6 2009-04-29 07:05:13

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

“Sound symbolism” is all over in this wonderful set of data. cr means something like “restrict” or “compress”, as in (besides these cr*p examples) crush, crash, crinkle, crowd and doubtless others, along with closely related ideas (as in crick, crawl, crooked, cry, croak , …). Vp means (something like) a definite but not terribly strong motion coming up to an abrupt stop, as in stop, tap, trip, trap, flap, tip, top, slip, slap, slop, flip, flap, flop , and so forth.
.
This sort of thing is one of the most fascinating aspects of the endlessly fascinating English language, at least for me. “Fuzzy areas” of meaning expressed by syllable onsets or codas that don’t quite make it to be full-fledged morphemes, and which are terribly difficult for non-native speakers to get, but which mean certain words have “natural” meanings for their phonological shapes.
.
E.g. blap is a non-standard word I know. I bet if you all were to guess you would come pretty close to what its meaning is. (Hint: it’s not a field, nor a process of thinking, or rumbling sound or a complicated piece of machinery.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2009-04-30 00:34:23)


*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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#7 2009-04-29 13:50:42

burred
Eggcornista
From: Montreal
Registered: 2008-03-17
Posts: 937

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

I sound “blap” as meaning something that’s starts inside, evolves outward but is stopped abruptly during expression, or collapses on itself in the end. Impeded speech? Wait, we already have “burp”. The gas bubbles escaping from a mud pot? This is like Fictionary Pictionary Dictionary.

Last edited by burred (2009-04-29 13:55:24)

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#8 2009-04-29 20:34:03

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

cr means something like “restrict” or “compress”,

Except, of course, in crow, crust, crisp, crime, craft, crept, cross, crop, croak, cream, crew, cruise, crane, cry, crown, crayon, and cranberry.

If you want to see the onomatopoetic hypothesis taken to the the extreme, do take a look at the preface to the Hensleigh Wedgwood volume. The linguist Edward Vajda (http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling20 … nguage.htm) calls the onomopoetic approach the “ding-dong” theory. After reviewing the various hypotheses for the origin of language, he says

There are no scientific tests to evaluate between these competing hypotheses. All of them seem equally far-fetched. This is why in the late 19th century the Royal Linguistic Society in London actually banned discussion and debate on the origin of language out of fear that none of the arguments had any scientific basis at all and that time would be needlessly wasted on this fruitless enquiry.

Isn’t treating phonemes as morphemes similar to Wedgwood’s quest to find an onomatopoetic sound at the tag end of every line of word derivation?

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#9 2009-04-29 23:48:49

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

burred wrote:

I sound “blap” as meaning something that’s starts inside, evolves outward but is stopped abruptly during expression, or collapses on itself in the end. Impeded speech? Wait, we already have “burp”. The gas bubbles escaping from a mud pot? This is like Fictionary Pictionary Dictionary.

Well, for those I know who use it, it is an adverb denoting a collision, typically strong enough to be painful but not enough to cause significant damage, against a typically immobile object. E.g. He turned a corner and walked blap into a post. It’s in the same paradigm of adverbs with smack dab spang and so forth.


*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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#10 2009-04-30 00:30:17

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

kem wrote:

cr means something like “restrict” or “compress”, ¶ Except, of course, in crow, crust, crisp, crime, craft, crept, cross, crop, croak, cream, crew, cruise, crane, cry, crown, crayon, and cranberry.

If you want to see the onomatopoetic hypothesis […] the onomopoetic approach the “ding-dong” theory. […] ¶ There are no scientific tests to evaluate between these competing hypotheses. All of them seem equally far-fetched

Comments:

(1) I certainly wasn’t proposing anything about the origin of language, so I’m not sure what the onomatopoetic hypothesis/ding-dong theory has to do with anything here. Or was it just another topic this one makes you think of?
.
(2) fwiw some of the examples you give actually do, in my mind, fit the paradigm to some extent. I’d actually listed croak as a far-fetched example, and crust, crisp , and crop seem like reasonably good ones to me. Perhaps others too. But of course the meanings are iffy/fuzzy.
.
(3) Main point: I am not sure what you intend as the import of your “except of course in” list. Perhaps you mean it to be an argument that the correlations of cr with the notion ‘restrict/compress’ are unreal or negligible. Even if that is not your argument here, it is certainly not a “dead straw horse”: it is what typically gets brought up when these cases are discussed.
.
If it is a valid argument then one must also grant that the morpheme in – ‘negative’ (as in incredible, intolerable, inescapable, infirm ) is totally illusory, on the grounds that the sound doesn’t have that meaning in income, inflammable, injurious, ingredient, institute, instrument, interim … . And com/n cannot mean ‘together’ in compress, compact, constrain, constrict because it doesn’t clearly mean it in control, complicated, come, coming, cunning, . (Not talking etymology here btw.) And cat cannot mean ‘domestic feline’ because it does not have that meaning in caterpillar, cataract, catadioptric, cattleya or cattle . And so forth. Hundreds or thousands of parallel examples could be given from probably any language—certainly every language I know anything about.
.
Stated generally: (reductio ad absurdum) if “sound-symbolic” sound-meaning correlations are deemed invalid because they do not hold in every instance, then central members of the category of morphemes must also be deemed invalid on the same grounds. Which is (or at any rate most people would consider) absurd. If it’s sauce for morphemes to have non-complete correlations then it is sauce for these “sound-symbolic” thingies.
.
This holds whether you are considering incomplete sound>meaning (semasiological) or incomplete meaning>sound (onomasiological) correlations: e.g. whether you note that in doesn’t always mean ‘negative’ or that ‘negative’ is not invariably pronounced in .
.
I am not claiming that there are no valid distinctions to be drawn between these sound-symbolic thingies and (other kinds of) morphemes. But this argument is at best weak grounds for dismissing the category entirely, or even for distinguishing it from the category of more prototypical morphemes.
.
(4) Minor point: treating syllable onsets and codas as morphemes is not the same thing as ˌ“treating phonemes as morphemes” . cr is not a phoneme any more than in is. (Again, I am not claiming that meanings cannot be attached, whether “naturallly” or only conventionally, to individual phonemes. I believe they often are.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2009-04-30 00:40:31)


*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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#11 2009-04-30 15:18:20

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

If your hypothesis is that an intial “cr-“ on a word or a final “p” on verb has a specific semantic import in English, we can test the hypothesis by looking at relevant words and comparing them to the hypothesis. Every word that fits the hypothesis counts for it, every word that doesn’t fit the hypothesis counts against it.

If your hypothesis is that a certain sound combination sometimes has specific semantic import, then lists of words are no longer evidential. Are there neurological, psychological, etymological or other studies that might support the hypothesis? If not, then the hypothesis remains untestable at our current level of knowledge.

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#12 2009-04-30 21:48:27

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

If your hypothesis is that an intial “in-“ on a word or a final “s” on [a] verb has a specific semantic import in English, we can test the hypothesis by looking at relevant words and comparing them to the hypothesis. Every word that fits the hypothesis counts for it, every word that doesn’t fit the hypothesis counts against it.

If your hypothesis is that a certain sound combination sometimes has specific semantic import, then lists of words are no longer evidential. Are there neurological, psychological, etymological or other studies that might support the hypothesis? If not, then the hypothesis remains untestable at our current level of knowledge.
.
How do you do morphology, Kem?

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2009-04-30 21:52:30)


*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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#13 2009-05-03 19:03:28

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

For the “in-” prefix we have etymological and historical evidence that helps us sort out the morpheme “in-” examples from the nonmorphemic ones.

Morphemic “in-“ has two meanings, as you know, the negatory “in-” and the intensifier “in-.” Some of the “in-“ words you cite are built from one and some from the other. Once we have subtracted the ones built from the morphemic Latin prefixes, we are left with initial “in-” words that are derived from neither of these prefixes, words such as “inch” and “indian.” These latter words probably have a nonmorphemic “in-.”

There are gaps in our historical data, of course, so our reconstructions can be unreliable, but in the case of “in-” we are working at a level where data and hypothesis can talk to each other. But when we hypothesize that an initial “cr-” or a final “p” on a verb is a morpheme, how can we test the hypothesis?

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#14 2009-05-04 00:20:19

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

But historical and etymological considerations are simply the same sort of thing at a further remove. Someone in the past noticed a persistent but not absolute sound/meaning correspondence in their own language and concluded that that sound could and often did bear that meaning. And recorded that conclusion for posterity. Or someone looking at historical data went through the same process. And of course you can find the sound-symbolic correlations easily in historical data. But that process applied to synchronic data also produces results that are just as valid.
.
My colleagues and I work with indigenous languages for which (typically) there is no historical record. That doesn’t keep us from doing morphology! And native speakers learn sound/meaning correspondences without knowing (or in many cases caring a fig) about history and etymology. History and etymology are frosting, not flour, for the morphological cake.
.
A way to test the hypothesis would be to make statistical predictions, if you want to do it that way. Find how many words meaning compression or restriction begin with ‘cr’ and how many begin with some other random onset cluster, and what percentage of words beginning with ‘cr’ fit that meaning to some degree. Particularly find novel (nonce or eventually established) words and see if they fit the pattern at a level higher than chance.
.
(Add to the negatory and intensifier ‘in’s the one that means “in(to)” as well … as in income, intrude , etc.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2009-05-04 00:38:00)


*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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#15 2009-05-04 02:53:27

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2119

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

Find how many words meaning compression or restriction begin with ‘cr’ and how many begin with some other random onset cluster, and what percentage of words beginning with ‘cr’ fit that meaning to some degree.

So you believe that finding words beginning with “cr-” that don’t bear the hypothesized meaning is relevant? Then I’m confused. Why did you think that the list of “cr-” words that don’t seem to imply restriction or compression, the one I gave in the earlier post, was not a meaningful addition to the discussion?

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#16 2009-05-04 05:07:44

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: crams/crumps/craps/crimps << cramps my style

I’ll put my reply in a different thread over on the soapbox, I think. :-)


*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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