Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Found in a boyfriend’s essay freshman year in college (yes, a VERY long time ago!):
“in lamest terms” for “in layman’s terms”
I got this same substitution (“lamest” for “layman’s”) in a student’s undergraduate history essay. To my mind, it’s a much better eggcorn than the other one discussed at length in this forum (“Lehmann’s terms”).
Welcome to both of you and yes, ‘lamest’ to my ear too is a more convincing eggcorn than ‘Lehmann’s’.
Last edited by Peter Forster (2008-03-25 19:52:20)
Could someone walk me through the imagery? Is it that specialist terms are strong and able, while non-specialist terms are imperfect and defective – that is, lame? Therefore, those terms used by non-experts (lay people) are lamest?
This strikes me as a possible eggcorn, or possibly a malaprop. If it is (or was) a malaprop, though, this example suggests that it is well enough established for the user to regard it as a superlative. (Note also that this is a religious question addressed to laity in the original sense.)
How can I, in the lamest terms possible, explain God to my five year old?
http://www.clubmom.com/display/286152?a … nId=392963
Nilep, I think you did about as fine a job of unpacking the imagery as anyone’s going to manage. And I think your last citation has got to be one of the most remarkable ever posted to the site. Wow.
It’s interesting that “lamest terms” seems to occur most often without the article. Googling led to the following results:
“in lamest terms” 1620 raw hits / 106 unique hits
“in the lamest terms” 128 raw hits / 30 unique hits
[in the latter case, not all of the hits seem to be eggcornish]
For most of us native speakers, the superlative ending usually calls for the article “the” before the adjective. Superlatives without the article are of course possible in certain situations/registers, but I think it sounds a bit funny in this case. So the fact that the odd-sounding form is more common points pretty clearly to the likelihood that “lamest” is a direct reshaping of “layman’s” here.
One of the (many) things I like about Nilep’s citation is that the speaker has made sense of that weird superlative by making it part of a well-formed, unexceptional phrase: “the lamest terms possible.” By the time that you’ve gotten to that form, the eggcornish origins of the construction have become much harder to see.
The comparative form of “lame” also enters the muddle. Couple of hundred ghits for “in lamer terms.” Samples below. As a sound slip, “lamer” is not so close to “laymen’s” as “lamest” is. Perhaps the initial slip is from “laymen’s” to “lamest,” then “lamest” is permuted to “lamer” because two events/objects are being compared. Or perhaps the typically anarthrous comparative more readily substitutes for the anarthrous “laymen’s” than the typically arthrous superlative.
If we have a verbal slip doing its own grammatical acrobatics (positive, comparative, superlative), doesn’t it suggest that the slip is anchored in a semantic framework? “Lame,” in the sense of “paltry, inconsequential, weak,” (e.g. “lame excuse”) is probably substituting its imagery for the sense of “laymen’s” that means “inexpert, simplified.” I think it’s an eggcorn.
Gaming bulletin board post: “When different social worlds come together they bring these different values and view points to the social arena, and in this case the social arena is the gamespot forums. In lamer terms gamespot is a great place to talk with other people with similar interests as myself….” (http://www.gamespot.com/pages/forums/sh … d=26042894)
Post to a database forum: “Hi,Let me simplify it in lamer terms.Basically, you have a cycle in your relations schema. i.e.rel A: att-x, att-y[,] rel B: att-y, att-z [,] rel C: att-z, att-x[.] The only way to join these three without loosing a lot of information….” (http://archives.devshed.com/forums/data … 782.html00)
Wizardry game bulletin board: “Or, in lamer terms... Eagerness G[,] Instant[,] Split Second[,] Creature[...] spells you play this turn have split second.” (http://forums.gleemax.com/archive/index … 68395.html)
Question on math forum page: “Could you please explain in lamer terms?” (http://www.mathhelpforum.com/math-help/ … ethod.html)
Last edited by kem (2008-03-27 17:19:40)