Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Heard this one the other day at the office, in the form of “Grandma’s out of the hospital now, but it was touch-and-goal for a while”. Without the “L” of “landing”, it really stood out.
Found only one Google hit
As it stands now the CSUB Roadrunners and myself are in minneapolis…again. After flying there from Los Angeles we boarded and flew to sioux Falls South Dakota where our pilot did a “touch and goal landing, deciding at the last minute the cross winds and blowing snow made it to dangerous to land, so we flew back to minneapolis.<<
Others I’ve been saving up:
Pipe Eye the sailor / Popeye the Sailor
White Awake / Wide awake
Sightlined / Sidelined
Last edited by johncoleman (2010-01-13 02:08:13)
This one is intriguing. The “touch and goal” imagery of the airplane landing makes sense: first the pilot focuses on having the plane touch the ground, then he focuses on the final goal of stopping the plane. In this case, “touch and goal” seems to be an eggcorn usage.
Although the grandma story might draw upon the same usage by analogy, it just seems so far removed from the imagery. (Initially, “touch and goal” conjured up football imagery … but not in a way that is coherent with the usage). Anyone else have any ideas of how it might work?
Last edited by jorkel (2010-01-13 05:34:28)
Well, it seems a bit like what’s about to happen in Michelangelo’s God creating Adam – not yet a touch and far short of an embrace. It could be seen as ‘touching goal’ which many of us would pronounce as “touchin’ goal,” a tentative contact rather than embracin’ it.
And welcome to the forum, John.
I meant to add the following to my last post:
For a while, it was touching goal. The mess of infection required weeks of heavy antibiotics and regular tooth feedings. Soon, Farley was well enough to …
. . first the pilot focuses on having the plane touch the ground, then he focuses on the final goal of stopping the plane.
But in a touch-and-go the plane doesn’t stop, it touches the runway and takes right off again. Hardly like a “goal” now that I think of it.
More like a miss, or a rebound. OR.. in taking off again, the plane rises off the end of the runway like a (N American) football clearing the goalpost.
There seems to be a soccer/rugby term “touch-and-goal”. Being USAian, I’m not familiar.
I looked into your other savers, John. “Pipe eye” is a good explanation for the squint – have you seen this one in the wild? I couldn’t find any “white awake”s. This reminded me of the quebec expression for an all-nighter: une nuit blanche or “white night.” Don’t know if there’s any connection.
As for “sightlined” for sidelined, I found the following which are strangely suggestive and blendish. The first is about firing on the enemy, and is probably a blend with “line of sight”. The second is an interesting expression from a football referee, for whom sidelines would be bread and butter. His sight is blocked and he can’t see an infraction: he was “sight-lined.” A nice coinage, but not an eggcorn, I don’t think.
John’s last comment suggests a new meaning for the idiom “touch and go.” The phrase is supposed to mean uncertain, could go either way, perilous. It comes from another vanished game of the same name, as was the case for “fast and loose.” If a “touch and go landing” is understood as touching down briefly before returning to the air, then am I right in thinking it is not an eggcorn? It’s a new application of the phrase that is independent and legitimate in its own right, but it no longer has the meaning of the idiom. “The landing was touch-and-go” means difficult and almost disastrous if you do successfully land. If you take off again and don’t complete the landing, then saying it was “touch-and-go” is to confuse the meaning of the phrase. I’m sorry, I’m confused here.
Sightlines has also been bothering me. There is a possible eggcorn, that one might “watch from the sightlines” of a football game. The implication is that beyond the sidelines, you are not involved but merely a spectator. If that is the idea, then unfortunately the evidence that some use it this way is very slight. Here’s what I could come up with. The first is clearly eggcornish. The second is difficult to interpret clearly, since “sightlines” is being used these days to mean “within the limits of one’s range of vision.”
David raises a good question about the proposed eggcorn changing the usage of the original to mean something which is the opposite, but I think this is fair game: Eggcorns always have an altered sense from the original, and the utterer’s understanding of the original context is not necessarily guaranteed. All that is necessary is for the eggcorn context to be self-consistent—and, it can still be self-consistent even if it’s meaning is the direct opposite of the original.
In the current example, touch and go is normally understood to mean, “make an attempt, but back away before succeeding.” I suppose someone could wrongly assume that that idiom means, “first test the water [touch], then follow through [go].” In that case, the latter could just as easily have been “touch and goal”—the proposed eggcorn.
In the past I’ve talked about stealth eggcorns which I would loosely define as misinterpretations of idioms (or in-the-language expressions). Sometimes we’re not aware that we’ve got the wrong imagery for an idiom until someone calls us out on it—or until the usage gets inflected. (I’m thinking of the “play faster and looser” example in this forum).
At any rate, we must have had other eggcorns which mean the opposite of their acorns. Can anyone else think of any?
Last edited by jorkel (2010-01-16 04:59:10)
I see your point kem, and it’s a good one. As long as all the other criteria for an eggcorn are met, I guess I would call a reshaping an eggcorn if the utterer and the listener agree upon the meaning of the individual words (and a self-consistent meaning/imagery emerges). With a malapropism, the utterer and the listener attach different meanings to a word involved: one of them is right and one of them is wrong. E.g., “pineapple” could mean “pinnacle” only to the malapropism utterer, and he is wrong.
The thing I’m advocating about eggcorns is that the (sentence) meaning can be different from the acorn to any degree. In some cases, the eggcorn contradicts the acorn only in some nuanced way. But I also I think an eggcorn could convey the exact opposite meaning of the acorn. Why? Because the acorn isn’t being used: only something that resembles it (in sound) is being used in it’s own self-consistent way.
The paradox is that the acorn gave birth to the eggcorn at one point and their meanings were immediately distinct. Any confusion that might have caused the eggcorn creator in understanding the acorn is irrelevant; all that matters is subsequent usage of the eggcorn itself: As long as that subsequently usage is self-consistent—i.e., does not rely on the acorn to convey meaning—then it is an eggcorn. IMO, of course.
Last edited by jorkel (2010-01-16 15:30:36)
In the sort of language slips we discuss on this forum, a bridge is built from the appropriate phrase to the erring phrase. The bridge for garden-variety malaprops is phonological or visual–the perceived similarity in sound or shape between one word and another is enough to carry the speaker/writer across the chasm. When Mr. Cruncher in Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, refers to “the year of our Lord Anna Dominoes,” he does not really labor “under the impression that the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her name upon it.” Dickens’s humorous explanation is tongue in cheek. More than likely Mr. Cruncher neither knows the meaning of the Latin term “anno domini” nor enjoys the acquaintance of Miss Dominoes. The bridge that Cruncher crosses to get to his howler is built from the similarity in sound between the two phrases. With eggcorns, however, the framework of the bridge has a semantic component. The speaker/writer doesn’t select just any word with a similar look/sound. The erring substitution must allow the sentence resolution to go forward in a way that makes at least some use of the semantic pathways that it would have employed for the substituted word.
For this reason an acorn/eggcorn pair that are antonyms should not, by definition, result in an eggcornical act. A stable semantic bridge cannot be built from girders that repel each other. If you think about it, though, antonyms are only antonyms because they oppose each other within a shared context. A feeling of wetness and the color orange are not antonyms–they lack a context for serious comparison. Wet and dry, in contrast, can be antonyms, because they both stimulate our sense of touch. The semantic context within which antonyms oppose one another can be substantial enough, in certain cases, to provide bridge-building materials. So one could reasonably argue that some substitutions words with opposite meanings are triggered by a shared semantic context. The substitution of “have the tenacity to suggest” for “have the temerity to suggest,” for example, is one of these antonymic eggcorn candidates. We can make an argument that the opposed meanings of “tenacity” and “temerity” play some role the switch.
I have referred to these eggcorns in another post with the metaphor “DNA substitutions.” The phenotypes, the developed semantics of the two words, are all but ignored and they are referred to the simplest level of differentiation, their genotypes, their shared frameworks. Whether we could find enough common ground on this forum to call these “DNA eggcorns,” however, is an open question.
The semantic birth of an eggcorn generally occurs by misunderstanding some acorn via a self-consistent substitution of image and sound. I place few bounds on the degree of the imagery misunderstanding because the birth is frequently a one-time event which limits the degree to which the acorn usage can even be understood. Once born, the eggcorn usage lives independently of the acorn, and there is no indication that the eggcorn utterer will ever know the truth about the acorn. And as long as the eggcorn consists of dictionary words, a listener should be able to determine the meaning of the eggorn—as if the acorn never existed).
It’s one thing to hear a word and wrongly assume the opposite of its true meaning. (I’m sure many a defendant has braced himself for jail time when he’s been told he’s been acquited). But eggcorns don’t use the wrong meaning of words: they use correct words that aim to make some sense of the acorn. Typically there is insufficient context with the acorn usage for the eggcorn creator to even recognize that a miscommunication has taken place.
At any rate, ours are just two different viewpoints in this interesting debate.
“our pilot did a touch and goal landing”
Sorry I know that this has moved on somewhat since the initial post, but this eggcorn really caught my eye having flown with Ryanair recently. Immediate on touch-down, was a trumpeted fanfare (cheap-skate-tastic) and subsequent announcement celebrating the fact that Ryanair have the best on-time record of all European airlines.
Sort of a “touch and goal” announcement; not so much with the “touch and go” though?