Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Two potential eggcorns:
“Sure (sth) up” for “shore (sth) up”. “Shore up” in the original, physical-support meaning (buttress, fortify, etc.) as well as the figurative meaning are quite old, but (etymologically-) related words related to support, such as the noun “shore” (a support”), are now rare. “Sure up” is more transparently about making some structure more secure, or “sure” not to fail. (or perhaps it is about making people “sure” that something is secure). Most examples I could find are related to improving a sports team’s lineup or roster.
—Stephon Marbury was traded for by the Knicks and has helped to sure up their back court. (http://www.sportsmemorabilia.com/sports … graph.html)
—Detroit Tigers- It would take some sort of disaster for this team to miss the playoffs, but they know they need to sure up their lineup to advance. (http://www.sportscolumn.com/story/2006/7/15/205315/338)
—Once the skull is dry glue teeth back in and if any of the bones are loose, you can sure them up with super glue. (http://www.mucc.org/SkullMounts.htmhttp … Mounts.htm)
Next, “upmost” for “utmost”. Utmost as a prenominal adjective has a superlative meaning (approximately ‘the most amount’), as in utmost importance, utmost respect, utmost extent. However, it contains a cranberry morpheme ut- (~out), so is liable to reanalysis to something that more transparently expresses superlative meaning, such as up+most (‘uppermost’), which fits with the MORE IS UP-type metaphor. This may also involve anticipatory assimilation to the nasal in “most”. This seems already to be a well-known phenomenon (the first hit on google for “upmost” is a page on not confusing it with “utmost”).
—I sell Porsche Cars for a living and have for many years. In the US, competition amongst manufacturers is very high. Quality is of the upmost importance and Porsche has been the leader for many years. (http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/articl … 19,00.html)
—Of upmost importance is that this list provide a safe place for moms to share and “vocalize” their inner-most feelings without fear of harrassment, judgment, blame, guilt, or silencing. (http://www.honoredbabies.org/support-guidelines.htm)
—Hate mail is always welcome and will be taken with the upmost regard for humour and will most likely be presented on this page for pure comic value. (http://www.seanheather.com/contact.htmh … ontact.htm)
Utmost>>up most has an entry in the Database. It’s a somewhat minimal entry, though, that needs to be updated—it doesn’t include the type of analysis you’ve added here. The comments to that entry are really interesting, too. One person found “unmost” and another “outmost importance”; the latter gets an astounding 49000 hits—only 10k less than “upmost importance.” I guess it’s a kind of “decranberrying.”
“Sure up” was once contributed to this page in its earlier, numbered form:
# 267 Commentary by Ian Barber , 2005/03/29 at 9:26 am
Just spotted “sure up” in place of “shore up”. Google gives 487,000 for “shore up” and 15,800 for “sure up”, though even on the front page there are a couple of results that aren’t uses of the phrase in place of shore up, so the real figure is probably a bit lower.
But, again, IB’s comment lacks your excellent, prolonged analysis. I think “to sure up” is a great candidate for the Database, but I don’t know what our Database gatekeepers think about it.
When I’m speaking rapidly, stops like p and t before a nasal get reduced to something that sounds to me like a quick glottal stop. (I’m not a linguist, so if you or anyone else can point me to a more technical discussion of this kind of thing in modern English, I’d appreciate it.) For some speakers who pronounce “utmost” as “u’most,” reconstituting that stop might involve a bit of guesswork. I’ve certainly heard this in the pronunciation of my fellow native Californians, but I’m not sure how widespread it is in other Englishes outside of the Cockney dialect.
Russell, in his thoughtful discussion of “upmost,” suggests “uppermost” as a form bearing the meaning that “upmost” tries to express, but he doesn’t suggest examples of “uppermost” for “utmost.” I found one this afternoon in Bart Ehrman’s book God’s Problem (HarperCollins 2008). On p. 194 he writes, “It should drive us to enjoy life to the uppermost for as long as we can and in every way we can.” Googling the phrase “to the uppermost” brought over 10 million hits. I checked only the first hundred, and all of them were followed by a head noun expressing degree or place. There was only one case where “the uppermost” had no head noun, and that case was clearly elliptical, with the head noun supplied a line earlier. I don’t think this is enough yet to call it an egg-corn, one case in the wild, but it is surprising in so skilled a writer as Ehrman, and I would expect to find more instances.
Two more examples:
Scottish online newspaper quoting Neil Kinnock: “Those two were made for each other and nobody else. Scargill made her a political present which she exploited to the uppermost. ”
Islamic forum: “i was just shocked how some talib ilm are shot down for minor issues (Munajid, others), not related to aqidah, and other are defended to the uppermost ”
You might be interested, hstahlke, in a trick that I-and, I assume, other regulars on the forum-employ to ferret out eggcorn examples on the web when the eggcorn is a common word and the phrase in which it occurs has a legitimate alternate meaning. We go to the COCA or the BNC and do a search for the relevant acorn (in this case, “to the utmost”), putting an asterisk in front of (or behind) the acorn. Like this: ”* to the utmost.” The search returns a frequency-ordered list of the corpora words just before (or after) the relevant phrase. We look for phrasal contexts which would typically occur with the acorn but not, under normal circumstances, with the eggcorn. This leads to the phrases “exploited to the utmost” and “defended to the utmost.” We then use Google to do a quotation-bracketed search for the phrase with the eggcorn substituted for the acorn (i.e., “exploited to the uppermost” and “defended to the uppermost”).
With only three examples, it is hard to argue that this is a standard eggcorn. But it seems like something eggcornical may be going on.
I just came across “sure up” in the wild, and thought it should be in the database. Not sure why it’s not – it’s clearly got the characteristics of an eggcorn: if you’re not familiar with the unusual verbal meaning of “shore”, then “sure” sounds perfect for the way the phrase is used in the idiom – when you “shore up” something, you’re supporting something, firming it up, making it more sure.
Kuwait steps in to sure up Citigroup and Merrill
any deck that would run this to sure up it’s combo would probably rather just have a counterspell. – not a remotely notable source, or a particularly well-grammared (?) poster, but it’s where I discovered it :P