Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
In Act III, Scene 5 of Much Ado About Nothing Leonato has a cracked conversation with Constable Dogberry. The good constable, who cannot utter a sentence without committing salt and buttery against the mother tongue, is Shakespeare’s version of Sheridan’s Mrs. Malaprop. Dogberry’s signature line in this funny scene is “comparisons are odorous.”
“Odorous” for “odious” is more than a malapropism. It is an eggcorn. English often equates a bad smell with moral malfeasance-words such as “noxious,” “rotten” and “unwholesome” flit back and forth between the physical to the ethical. “Odorous” usually stays on the smelling side of the divide, except when it takes advantage of its similarity to “odious” to make an eggcorn shortcut to the moral realm.
For some reason the “odorous/odious” eggcorn has not made it into our database or forum discussions. Pat’s wonders how far we are from the eggcorn omega–perhaps we should be measuring the distance from eggcorn alpha.
This ancient eggcorn still has the power to confuse. Some modern examples:
Ezine comment: “Having said this, I will vote for you, but only because the opposition is so odorous that the thought of a McCain presidency makes me physically ill.”
Blog entry on political topic “This is the most odorous comparison I can imagine. ”
Book review: “For all its talk of liberty, the essence of capitalism is wage slavery, and its most odorous aspects are well documented here.”
A serendipitous thought: Perhaps we should call our end-of-the-year awards “dogberries.”
Last edited by kem (2009-06-19 23:34:11)
Dogberries—anything like horseapples?
It’s pretty easily an independent formation, and/or a joke—but I expect you are right that it is or has been an eggcorn for some.
Are odium and odor not etymologically related?
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .