Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Some hidden eggcorns:
(1) The noun soil (=ground) and the verb soil (=make dirty) have different etymons. The noun “soil” traces back to the Latin solum, ,. The verb harks back to the Latin word for “pig.”
(2) “Sorry” and “sorrow,” though they sport different Teutonic ancestries, have been collated and confused for a long time. The OED comments:
The history of [sorrow] is also closely connected with that of sorry adj., which is derived from the Germanic base of sore adj. In the Middle English period, sorry adj. underwent phonological changes such that the common semantic ground shared by these words in the field of mental or emotional suffering was coupled with a degree of formal convergence…. In particular, reflexes of Old English inflected forms of sorrow … can be difficult to distinguish from those of sorry adj. in some contexts.
(3) Savory can be quite savory, but the plant savory and the adjective “savory” are not historically linked. The plant name comes from the Latin satureia (whence the name of the genus to which our summer and winter savory belong, Satureja). The adjective “savory” comes from sapor, a Latin word for “taste.”
(4) “All told” means “all counted.” This use of “told” is the same one that is in “tell one’s rosary beads” and “bank teller.” The discussions in the Eggcorn Database and on “all total/totaled” and “all tolled” overlook this. The takes our Database to task for missing this. We stand corrected.
(5) I don’t think the Forum has recognized, as yet, the ambiguities of “exception” and “prove” in the phrase “the exception proves the rule.” As notes, “prove” actually has the sense of test/probe (as in “proving grounds”), not the usually-attributed sense of validate/establish as true. “Exception” has the older, legal sense of omission/exclusion, not the modern sense of nonconforming/unusual. The original import of the Latin phrase behind our English maxim “the exception proves the rule” seems to be “the need to state what the rule doesn’t cover lends authority to the rule on matters that it actually does cover.”
Missed one from my list of hidden eggcorns: gastritis. It has nothing to do with stomach gas. You classics scholars (and gastroenterologists) will recognize the Greek/Latin word for stomach in “gastritis.” The word “gas,” on the other hand, was coined by a seventeenth century chemist, perhaps using “chaos” as a model, to refer to a state of matter. “Gas” was latter adapted as a word for colon cologne (for this and other funny euphemism for flatus, such as poofume, scented scream, and bunthunder see ).