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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2017-06-16 21:54:04

David Bird
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1554

"Heaven's scope" for cope

In the May 2010 issue of the The Scientist, a science news magazine, Henry David Thoreau is quoted from his Journals, fretting that he is falling under the sway of mere botany:

I fear that the character of my knowledge is from year to year becoming more distinct and scientific; that, in exchange for vistas wide as heaven’s scope, I am being narrowed down to the field of the microscope. I see details, not wholes nor the shadow of the whole. I count some parts, and say, “I know.” … -Selected/

Lovely -but that’s not actually what he wrote. What he thought he was losing were “views wide as heaven’s cope”. The poetic expression of the vault of heaven as a cope is not familiar to most. It comes from the same root as cap and capital. Scope, on the other hand, was originally a physical target before being abstracted into a purview, a sweep, a span.”Heaven’s scope” is so natural that it would be hard to even claim it as an eggcorn, were it not for these misquotes such as the one above. Other folks have been happy to adopt the notion of being under or within “heaven’s scope.”

Christmas poem

Faith doth but hope
She shall see clear—whereas she doth but grope—
When earth’s dark vistas widen to heaven’s scope.
Sacred poet, 1889



#2 2017-06-20 17:49:39

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2589

Re: "Heaven's scope" for cope

Good catch of a sneaky reanalysis eggcorn.

The metaphor “heaven’s cope” is old, going back to Wycliffe and Chaucer.

There are at least a ten other other print sources with the same “heaven’s scope” error in the Thoreau quotation. The granddaddy of them all, the probable source of the misquote (if there is a single source) is Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations.

The phrasal switch outside the Thoreau quotation, however, is a difficult one to establish beyond reasonable doubt, since “heaven’s scope” makes good sense and it doesn’t occur in a potted idiom.

Last edited by kem (2017-06-20 17:50:36)

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



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