Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
The “After Deadline” blog by the New York Times editors . This text came across the editing desk:
It’s easy to make fun of Ryan Seacrest — for his ubiquity on the show business landscape, for his over-weaning ambition, for his role in unleashing the Kardashian clan.
The editors go on to comment:
“Over-weaning” might describe an overly aggressive effort to shift babies or young animals off mother’s milk. Here, we meant “overweening.” (Spell-check should have helped on this one, but I think the hyphen in the original confused it.)
The substitution is no doubt motivated by the obscurity of “overweening.” The opacity of “overweening” stems in part from the progressive loss of the ancient AS “ween” verb. , the old word has reached a low plateau in recent decades. If not for sword and sorcery fiction, it would, I ween, have gone to ground.
But is the switch an eggcorn? Users of “overweaning” may be thinking about the maternal care dimension of “wean” rather than the more up-front (pardon the pun) sense of the termination of liquid care services. If so, “overweaning” could convey to its users a sense of s-mother love that wouldn’t be far from the meaning of “overween.”
I’m having trouble with this one. It’s hard to see the sense of weaning in the hits. Underweaning I might see, as in spoiled or coddled. Might it be that the perps, even those who add a hyphen, don’t know what weaning means?
BTW, thanks for this one – I didn’t have a good grasp of what weening and therefore overweening meant until your post induced me to look it up. I suspect an impoverished substitution is being made by overwhelming, which fits the grandiosity but loses the presumption and distorted self-image of overweening.