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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2009-06-21 22:13:12

From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

I'm here to qualm your fears.

I first ran into “qualm * fears” in a student paper, but it turns out it’s quite common – unique hits number more than 200 and probably go much higher. Since “qualm” means something like “reservation, anxiety, doubt,” the word is a fairly poor substitute for “to calm” – and it’s therefore a malaprop rather than an eggcorn/flounder. Nevertheless, it turns up all over in edited prose, including Wired magazine and a book by an eminent medieval historian – see the examples at the bottom of the page. This intrigues me – its distribution pattern looks more like that of an eggcorn.

One citation deserves a special mention. I found a surprising hit in the article on “qualm” on In a section entitled “qualm usage examples,” the editors have included a sentence they should have thought about one more time:

Modifies a noun

* fear: The Turkish Tourist Board in the UK is also keen to qualm fears.
[I’ve altered the spacing and indentation to make this play nice with our formatting, but all else is unchanged.]

First of all, the quoted sentence is obviously a case of poor usage – don’t try this at home, kids. Hey, we see non-standard usage all the time here on the Eggcorns Forum, and we generally think it’s cool in context. But this is an example of usage from a dictionary, for petessakes. Second, qualm is modifying a noun here? How did they come up with that? I’ve never been a big user of, but this shakes whatever confidence I may once have had in them.

Other examples:

Human reason could not fully establish this synchronous core truth but it could come close enough to qualm fears that faith and reason, science and revelation, were so separated and discrete that there was a “double truth,” not a single one, as claimed by the radical Arabic philosopher Averroes and some of his followers at the University of Paris, such as Aquinas’s adversary Siger of Brabant. … t&resnum=6
[From pages 117-8 of In the Wake of the Plague by medieval historian Norman F. Cantor – partially retyped from]

Rabobank serves the food and agriculture industry, so having its endorsement should help qualm fears that the biodiesel will cut into the food supply.
[Technically, this is from a Wired blog—so maybe an editor’s eyes never saw it.]

In other words, Mexican students should participate in “subtractive schooling” (Valenzuela, 1999) not necessarily for the purpose of citizenship, but instead to qualm fears of an increasing Mexican population in the United States.

There is a popular piece of advice that parents tell each other to qualm fears about horrifically poor behavior in children. … e-brothers

(Chancellor Thorp’s new Employee Assistance Fund will help qualm fears about looming budget cuts) … -1.1568059

Last edited by patschwieterman (2009-06-21 22:16:07)



#2 2009-06-21 23:45:05

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2601

Re: I'm here to qualm your fears.

I’ve wondered at times whether we ought to have a special class of eggcorns, or demi-eggcorns, for “substitute words/phrases that share a category with even though they have opposite meanings to the word they are replacing.” One suspects that there are meaning motivations implicit in the substitution of “qualm” for “calm,” even if the speakers have had the bad luck to have picked a word whose explicit meaning opposes the one they were aiming at. Besides “qualm/calm” we have seen yield/wield, ceases/seizes to be, tenacity/temerity, and others.

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



#3 2009-06-22 08:14:56

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2154

Re: I'm here to qualm your fears.

It’s also been pointed out before that verbalized forms of nouns can wind up with opposite results, e.g. weeding is taking weeds out and planting is putting plants in. So there is precedent for qualming to be either instilling qualms or removing them. If it’s removing them, it fits the context very well: qualming your fears is like weeding your garden—you still have the garden and presumably the fears, but the weeds/qualms in them are gone.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2009-06-22 08:15:56)

*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 .)



#4 2010-01-16 10:35:42

Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: I'm here to qualm your fears.

Good point kem. The examples you provide all sound like malapropisms to me. “qualm” means “calm” to the utterer, but not to a discerning listener. If the intended meaning of a word is simply wrong, then it can’t be an eggcorn: the construction has to make dictionary sense to the listener to be an eggcorn.

Last edited by jorkel (2010-01-16 10:38:53)



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