Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Substitution of one homophone for another can make blah eggcorns. The switch of team for teem may not be a simple run-of-the-mile error, however, nor a WTF typo. The case against blah is based on the etymologies. And for me the interest is as much, or more, in learning about the roots as in the fruits.
I was surprised, first of all, to learn that the verb teem has two meanings, which explains the ambiguity for me of a “teeming sky”. The Online ED, my only link to the Other ED, presents the origins of teem 1 as
“abound, swarm,” O.E. teman (Mercian), tieman (W.Saxon) “give birth to, produce,” from P.Gmc. taumijanan, from PIE deuk- “to lead” (see duke). Related to team in its now-obsolete O.E. sense of “family, brood of young animals.” The meaning “be fertile, abound, swarm” is first recorded 1593; teeming in this sense is from 1715.
I knew this version of teem. There is a teem 2 however, « “to flow copiously,” c.1300, from O.N. toema “to empty,” from tomr “empty,” cognate with O.E. tom “empty.” The original notion is of “to empty a vessel,” thus “to pour out.” * »
So a sky can teem with stars, it can teem with clouds and can teem with rain or teem down rain, which make a nice gradient across the meanings.
The connection to the obsolete cognate of teem as team, for a brood or family, skirts very closely the other, more familiar team, which is present as both noun and verb. Again, the Online Etymological Dictionary is worth quoting at length.
O.E. team “set of draft animals yoked together,” from P.Gmc. taumaz (cf. O.N. taumr, O.Fris. tam, Du. toom, O.H.G. zoum, Ger. Zaum “bridle”), probably lit. “that which draws,” from taugmaz “action of drawing,” from series taukh-, tukh-, tug-, represented by O.E. togian “to pull, drag” (see tow), from PIE *deuk- “pull” (related to L. ducere “to lead;” see duke). Applied to people in O.E., especially “group of people acting together to bring suit.” Team spirit is recorded from 1928. Teamwork is recorded from 1828 in the lit. sense, 1909 in the extended sense.
So ultimately teem and team are tied to the same origins, though they have followed separate paths for a few thousand years. These connections enliven the following substitutions, that I think are interesting if not striking eggcorns.
attack in South Africa
beautiful place yet teaming with evil
(http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/12/ … alcomments)
all the other cool teaming-with-evil villains
The place is teaming with evil gangs of rat-faced charvers!
*There is a word toom in English, meaning empty, that seems to have died out at the beginning of the last century.
The nice thing about a homophone-based eggcorn like “teaming with evil” is that it is couched in the right idiom (or in-the-language expression) so that it has a natural feel to it … and the imagery that the utterer generated works in a credible way. I think sometimes as eggcorn hunters we are tempted to take our homophone list and invent reshapings first (then follow that up with a Google search of a phrase we created). It’s nice when the eggcorn jumps out and finds us because we have our ears tuned to them.
New one in the news today, re a German plane that may be raised from the sea floor:
The plane is relatively light, but chloride in the ocean as well as the life teaming there have worked on it
over the 70 years since it last saw sunlight.
Sounds in a way like the chloride and the sealife have teamed together to deteriorate the plane (and so perhaps to deteriorate the salvagers from salvaging it?)
Last edited by DavidTuggy (2013-05-08 20:32:11)
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .