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#1 2014-04-25 21:55:28

burred
Eggcornista
From: Montreal
Registered: 2008-03-17
Posts: 946

Nary a blend

I just ran across this malaprop:

Watching them mate or do just about anything is nary impossible, or at least very impractical.
The rigours of insect taxonomy

More than 50 others have made this mistake. It has the air of a blend about it: very + nigh on + nearly + no, nay, never = nary?

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#2 2014-04-26 18:10:21

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1776
Website

Re: Nary a blend

Yes, blendish. Like many blends, eggcornish. After all, blends are largely semantically motivated.


*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 .)

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#3 2014-04-30 00:16:17

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2145

Re: Nary a blend

Don’t think it’s a malaprop. “Nary,” a contraction of “ne’er a,” is a lexicalized word. It’s an old US slang term, one that I associate with Appalachian culture. Citations go back well into the nineteenth century, even the eighteenth. Often used with (redundant) “a” or “an,” as in “nary a one.”

Last edited by kem (2014-05-01 00:57:37)

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#4 2014-05-01 00:18:23

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1776
Website

Re: Nary a blend

Agreed. (I use “nary a one” as well.) But why does that stop it from being a malapropism? Ne’er a(n) impossible and nary (an) impossible are still wrong, mal-apropos in their context. I’m not clear sure what you’re saying, Kem.


*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 .)

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#5 2014-05-01 01:24:02

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2145

Re: Nary a blend

It could be a malapropism. Always hard to know the mind of the speaker. But the expression could also be a legitimate application of the “nary” adjective/adverb. Here are some OED citations that compound “nary” with a noun, no “a/an” intervening.

1746 “The Indians..escaped them, and there was no ‘spile dunne on nary side ’.”
1856 “Playin at billiards and monte Till they’ve nary red cent to ante.”
1956 “Of course it must be yours because you got all the knowance of books and I got nary knowance at all.”
1995 “There’s nary two scraps of tuck to rub together, so how come there’s a hundred weight of fags?”

There are also several examples in the Corpus of Global Web-Based English. Here’s one in which “nary” modifies a verb:

“Women and Human Rights groups in Africa have nary agitated for her plight.”

Oodles of “nary” instances in the Corpus of Historical English. Here are two with “nary” modifying an adjective, as it does with “nary impossible” in the post above:

1889 ”’No, he’s no blower!’ laughed the other. ’ Nary kind, I reckon. But they do say he’s great on drawing plans.’”
1870 “Did I mourn? Did I fret? Was I cast down? Nary down ; not me.”

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#6 2014-05-01 12:22:11

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1776
Website

Re: Nary a blend

OK, so if nary can be an adjective-modifying adverb, meaning “not even, not at all”, or something like that, the nary impossible usages could be survivals rather than contemporarily produced errors. But the meaning doesn’t fit: nary impossible means “almost impossible”, not “not at all impossible = very possible”.


*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 .)

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#7 2014-05-01 14:00:09

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2145

Re: Nary a blend

Ah, I see what you mean. It should be “nary possible” and not “nary impossible.” The lect that uses “nary,” though, often applies multiple negatives (“the dog ain’t got no bone”), so the speaker may just be piling on the negatives.

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