Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2018-04-11
Labyrinths have been around for thousands of years. The best-known of these mazes is the one described in a myth about Theseus. The Greek youth traversed a maze built by King Minos of Crete and killed the Minotaur, the bull/man who lived the center of the maze. Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth with the help of a clew (a ball, and yes, the source of our word “clue”) of twine provided by Ariadne, daughter of King Minos.
The word “labyrinth” comes to us from Greek, but “labys,” the base of the word, may not be of Greek origin. Favorite candidates for the source of the word are the Lydian and Egyptian languages. A resurgence of interest in labyrinths in the middle ages helped to popularize the term in English. Today the thousands of labyrinths around the world (See the labyrinth locator for some current sites) help keep the word current. Given the famous difficulty of some of the mazes, it is not surprising to see the word spelled “laborinth.”
Spelling “labyrinth” as “laborinth” has venerable roots. The eggcorn probably existed in Latin first, as “laborintus.” Presumably the Latin word is a portmanteau built from “labor” (work) and “intus” (from inside). English writers in the fourteenth century cite the Latin eggcorn. The word continued to be spelled both as “labyrinth” and “laborinth” in English works of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the seventeenth century “labyrinth” became the standardized spelling and “laborinth” largely disappeared. One suspects, however, that many speakers continued to believe that the word had some connection to “labor.”
The tendency to think about “labor” as the basis of “labyrinth” is still with us. We find a number of web examples of the substitution of “laborinth” for “labyrinth.” Three of them:
Trip description by touring company “Crossing the River by ferry, we follow the Colo, a major tributary, deep into a sandstone laborinth where we climb into Sydney’s famous Blue Mountains to follow the original Bell’s Line of Road. ”
Ad for a rental apartment “After weaving your way through the laborinth of colourful, narrow streets to the top, you are rewarded with panoramic views of the mountains and sea.”
Blog entry about a trip to Zanzibar “Tropic, white, with a laborinth of small, narrow ways – we always get lost finding our hostel here ”
An interesting modern link to the Latin eggcorn occurs on the web page of a German virtual chapel : The author writes “Welche Kultur das Symbol des Labyrinths tatsächlich erfunden hat, ist ungewiss. Man nimmt an, dass die Wortbedeutung ‘Labyrinth’ von ‘Laborinth’ (lat. labor intus) kommt, was soviel heißt wie ‘arbeite dich nach innen’” [I translate: It is not known which culture actually invented the symbol of the labyrinth. One assumes that the meaning of the word “labyrinth” derives from “laborinth” (Latin “labor intus”), which essentially means “work yourself to the inside.”] Is there an esoteric cult dedicated to preserving Latin eggcorns?
Last edited by kem (2009-05-22 19:37:23)
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.
What a fun one: an eggcorn that still works a couple of thousand years later!
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .