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#1 2014-08-11 04:23:27

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2153

warfaring << wayfaring

A thoughtful piece in the recent The Atlantic entitled “A Corrected History of the Typo” by Adrienne LaFrance. The article’s main interviewee, Adam Symth, a Fellow in EngLit at Oxford, points out that movable type printing, in its infancy, didn’t actually lead to “better, more accurate texts,” but to “the dissemination of blunders.” Corrections and errata became a form of dialogue between authors and readers. (What typos do to spelling, we could add, eggcorns do to meaning.)

Smyth supplies the article’s author with a self-referential example of typo correction at work. Milton’s Areopagitica contains a spirited defense of the right of the reader to peruse both good and bad texts and decide on their signfiicance. Milton says:

“He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian.”

Certain early texts of the Areopagitica printed “warfaring” as “wayfaring.” In many exemplars of these texts the “y” is crossed out and replaced with an “r,” perhaps by Milton himself.

The struggle between Milton and his readers and publishers over “warfaring/wayfaring” is still with us. The word “wayfaring” has seen a tenfold decrease in English frequency over the last century and a half. Current English speakers mostly encounter the word in the context of a folk song derived from the late slave tradition in the American South. (“I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger. / I’m traveling through this world of woe. / Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger / in that bright land to which I go.”). The lack of regular contact with the word “wayfaring” leads a number of speakers/writers to substitute for it the more familiar “warfaring.

Have a quick glance at the number of YouTube videos of folk song covers that call it “Warfaring Stranger.” All the musicians in the videos get the words right when they sing it—the errors come when the YouTube posters describe what they have posted.

Last edited by kem (2014-08-11 04:26:35)

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#2 2014-08-11 11:32:06

Peter Forster
Eggcornista
From: UK
Registered: 2006-09-06
Posts: 827

Re: warfaring << wayfaring

Interesting indeed. It’s one of my banjo tunes and about the only context I’d use wayfarer/wayfaring. Clearly the notion of wayfaring is entirely unknown to many people, though they do what they can with the sound of it:

I do not want to be a wafering stranger. Nac Tron: Getting right to the basic core – - – Holy Communion is the legacy of the assurance of the …

the first time I ever saw Ed was over the internet, when a friend showed me one of his videos called ‘wafering stranger’, a song where him mic is on loop and Ed beat box’s and sings over it – brilliant!

I know that I am like a wafering stranger, going in and out of peoples’ lives, touching them in a way that will leave a mark that they will learn …

I’d like to think that something eggcornish was afoot, perhaps to do with being thin, hungry, insubstantial or even transubstantial, but am having some difficulty in deceiving myself.

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#3 2014-08-11 13:07:50

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2153

Re: warfaring << wayfaring

“Wayfearing stranger” is also quite common. We wouldn’t have so many wayfearing strangers if there were not so many warfaring strangers.

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#4 2014-08-12 17:02:25

Peter Forster
Eggcornista
From: UK
Registered: 2006-09-06
Posts: 827

Re: warfaring << wayfaring

Since this is a song which deals with our swift meander through the valley of the shadow of death, I think Wayfearing Stranger is a fine eggcorn. I should resist the temptation to observe that another variant, the Warfarin Stranger, would be an ideal sobriquet for the Pied Piper. I should have resisted that.

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