Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
At times “shed” and “shred” do duty for each other, with, I think, some ballast of meaning shifting between the holds.
“Shed” and “shred” are close semantic neighbors: both words come from independent terms that refer to cutting, dividing. The historical contraction/evolution of meanings, however, has made the two terms more distinct in the minds of modern speakers. The verb “shed” now refers to sloughing off, getting rid of, and, by extension, falling down on, bestowing on (clouds shed rain). “Shred” has shrunk to the point that almost all of its meanings, except the one that refers to slicing into small strips, are obsolete or rare.
Animals shed hair/fur. But some people think they shred their excess pelage. Perhaps those who make this error are thinking of split ends (the split ends of hair product marketers, not the offensive formation in American football).
: “should i shave my beautiful dog to cut down on shredding hair or keep his hair long and beautiful”
: “Dogs and cats have various problems such as shredding hair, flea and tick problems, arthritis conditions in the pets that are old etc. ”
: “I’v[e] read that when you first start taking rogaine, your shred hair. It takes a few months to actually see hair growth.”
: “Bought this hoover as i have 2cats and a dog, who shred fur daily”
The switch also goes the other way: certain idiomatic uses of “shred” (e.g., “shred of evidence,” “shred of dignity”) can appear with “shed” in place of “shred.” It is possible that those who make this mistake are thinking of the small hut sense of “shed” rather than the divestment sense.
“Shed of proof/evidence” examples:
: “What is surprising to note is that despite his bold ascription of this view to Imaam al-Bukhari, he did not furnish one shed of proof or reference to the works of Imaam al-Bukhari to verify his claim. ”
: “There is not one shed of evidence that supports the notion, that Life is Serious.”
“Shed of light” in place of “shred of light” is interesting. This may just a primed phrase, though, and not a substitution – the speaker may actually be thinking of a light source (the sun?) shedding its rays:
: “He made his way to the caverns as he sighed, into the west he went heading for some shed of light into his darkened soul. ”
: “In this issue of my reliability newsletter, I would like to provide some shed of light about what Root Cause Analysis is all about and why most industries fail in their Root Cause initiatives.”
The clearest eggcorns, I think, come with the replacement of “shred” in the idiom “shred of hope/dignity/honor/emotion.” Again, the user may be thinking of “shed” as a small house ( the blending of the two “shed” meanings in our earlier discussion of “watershed.”).
: “To Ricky you are too selfish and too old, your reflexes are not what they used to be and you are kidding yourself if you think that are, walk away now while you still have some shed of dignity. ”
: “So its not like there was any chance, but May 21st will pretty much dash those clinging to some shed of hope.”
: “Samantha looked around the room looking for some shed of hope, then she saw a man walking around, as if he was looking for someone”
: “I wanna love Tiger but he didn’t show one shed of emotion while he read his speech that was obviously written for him.”
Last edited by kem (2013-05-19 09:41:22)
From some spam that showed up in my email inbox yesterday, here’s a usage of the possible eggcorn “shred” that differs somewhat from your examples, kem :
Look fantastic for Memorial Day weekend and shred unwanted fat
It wasn’t just a typo either; a link in the text of that email included the phrase “getshredded”. This is clearly related to the bodybuilding jargon meaning of shred: “To drop fat and water weight before a competition” (per the Wordnik site). I’m not sure, but I think the bodybuilding jargon verb “shred” is intransitive. If so, the transitive usage in my example above is likely an eggcorn born from the acorn “shed”, and probably midwifed by some familiarity with the bodybuilding meaning of “shred”. Alternatively, it may be that the bodybuilding term “shred” can be used transitively, in which case the above example could be a perfectly correct (though slangy), usage which just coincidentally smells eggcornish.
“Shed of light” in place of “shred of light” is interesting. This may just a primed phrase, though, and not a substitution – the speaker may actually be thinking of a light source (the sun?) shedding its rays…
I’d guess that “shed of light” is motivated, however unconsciously, by the perps’ familiarity with the phrase “shed some light”.
Another sense where they could be interchanged is in music. Woodshedding in jazz means practicing (coming from the idea of a woodshed as a practice place – this is from the days before garage bands or GarageBand), and is sometimes shortened to “shedding.”
Shredding is a type of electric guitar playing.
Ultimate Guitar article: ”...the guitar playing is a product of both dudes wood shredding it out.”
Here’s a first-person account by a drummer who had thought since he was a teen that “woodshedding” referred to the wood that was shed by drumsticks in the course of practicing. “In other words, I’ve gone nearly 28 years at least partially believing woodshedding means to literally or metaphorically SHED SOME WOOD.”
Perhaps it’s common for drummers to take it literally: Paiste (cymbal manufacturer) Magazine: “Through years of hustle, long days of wood-shredding and persistence, Daru has emerged as one of today’s hippest drummers.”
Last edited by larrybob (2013-05-21 18:59:52)
Wow! Woodshedding > woodshredding makes my list of the good ones! The shift takes place seamlessly between woodshedding = playing/practicing in the woodshed > woodshedding = shedding wood off your drumsticks by overuse; the switch to woodshredding is then icing on the gravy.
Shredding sheds of light is amazing, too.
Last edited by DavidTuggy (2013-05-21 21:18:31)
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .