Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I ask: Can kids create eggcorns?
Before you take this question too literally and rush to answer “yes”, let’s explore the topic a bit. To hone the discussion, I’m refering to children who are still heavily learning new language …perhaps up to the age of six or seven.
When a child hears a word for the first time, and invents a meaning for it, that child is clearly creating new imagery. And, yes, that’s almost like the process of creating an eggcorn …except that it falls short of the usual process (that an adult would use in making an eggcorn) which is WORD SUBSTITUTION.
Let’s take an example. In another post, I spoke about the recital of the alphabet and the notion that “nopeque” (n-o-p-q) might be interpreted as the stroke below the letter Q. But, in reality, this word invention has a basis out of it’s own context. There is no external word substituted here which would help create the desired image. And, as such, the interpretation of “nopeque” is entirely arbitrary.
Let’s consider another, recent example: “Peers steers” is what one child heard for “pierced ears.” Many a child would understand the meaning of “steers”, but few if any would understand “peers.” So, although there is partial word substitution here, it falls short of qualifying as an eggcorn. But, on the other hand, if an OLDER child were to make the same mistake AND UNDERSTAND the meaning of “peers” then the mistake WOULD qualify as an eggcorn.
So, I would conclude that a child (or anyone else) CAN create an eggcorn ONLY IF the process involves word substitution where the meaning of those words are understood. Some interesting food for thought, I hope.
Last edited by jorkel (2006-09-17 07:01:59)
jorkel – You amaze us with your multiple daily new eggcorns. We worship you. This ELEMENO is something I have thought about. I say it is an abstract or cerebral eggcorn. Thus:
Kids learn words and they learn the alphabet verbally, sonically before they can read. They learn that the word for the second letter for the alphabet is BEE, and the word for the last letter is ZEE. But they cannot spell or read these words yet. They cannot even read the letters yet.
They also learn, by sound, that the word for a sore stomach is TUMMEEAYK, and the word for a small, loud, zippy two-wheeled vehicle is MOTOSAIKO. They hear and say these things, even though they cannot spell.
So! (Here’s my big pitch!) They know what words are like. They know the patterns of words, little words such as ZEE, and bigger words such as MOTOSAIKO. And they assume that the ELEMENO in the middle of the alphabet is a big word in the midst of a bunch of little words: ...AYCH, AI, JAY, KAY, ELEMENO, PEE…
So this eggcorn involves the pattern of a word, rather than the image or meaning of a word. I mean the sound-pattern or the linguistic pattern. Am I expressing the idea well? If not, please let me know, and I will write a long, dense, confusing explanation. Cheers!
jorkel – You are the eggcorn boss, not I. I am just fascinated eith ELEMENO. You will see in my other posts, e.g. Imaginary Eggcorns, that I just enjoy bandying words with smart folks.
a kid old enough to understand “steer” is old enough to have heard the word “peer” (as in, to look as if through a hole). Both concepts (to steer a car, and to look carefully around or through something) occur pretty early in a kid’s exposure to language. (I say that as a bedtime-story-reading mom of a 12- and a 9-year-old.)
So I would say that a kid who thinks ‘peers steers’ is probably making an eggcorn.
Most eggcorns happen verbally of course, so many kids make them, and then unmake them before they get old enough to write down the evidence.
(I have talked with little kids who thought it was “elemeno.”)
I have a friend who told me once that she was talking to her sister (who is 12, so a competant speaker of English) about the Protestant Reformation. When she mentioned Martin Luther, her sister asked her “Isn’t that the guy who nailed his car to a door?” She had remembered someone talking about the “95 Theses” earlier, and she assumed it was a car model. Not exactly an eggcorn, but amusing nonetheless.