Eggcorn Forum

Discussions about eggcorns and related topics

You are not logged in.

Announcement

Registrations are temporarily closed as we're receiving a steady stream of registration spam.

Anyone who wishes to register, please email me at chris dot waigl at gmail dot com with the desired username and a valid email address, and I will register you manually.

Thanks for your understanding.

Chris -- 2011-03-08

#1 2011-01-24 19:53:46

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 633

"rye" for "wry"

This one is in our official eggcorn list, though I myself don’t see it as having enough of a meaning connection to be an eggcorn as opposed to just a misspelling. What brought this one up for me was a recent magazine article which characterized Einstein as having a “rye sense of humor”.

In what magazine did I find this not-real-intelligent gaffe?

...Wait for it…

The Mensa Bulletin! LOL!

Offline

 

#2 2011-01-24 21:12:43

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: "rye" for "wry"

A connection I have speculated on would have the slightly sourish taste of rye (as in rye bread) associated with the twisting of the mouth till it is awry, which is associated with (and likely synaesthetic for) the slightly twisted nature of wry humor. (How rye whiskey might fit in I am too ignorant to know: is it any more bitter or sour than other whiskeys?)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

Offline

 

#3 2011-10-18 17:12:34

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2118

Re: "rye" for "wry"

A young woman joins our group for breakfast. She leans her head to the side and repeatedly winces. “Rye neck,” she says, waving her finger under her right ear. “I sometimes wake up with it. Takes at least a day to go away.” “How do you spell that?” I ask. “R-y-e,” she replies.

“W-r-y” is the correct spelling – think about the cognate “awry.” Wryneck/wry neck has been an English calque for the torticollis syndrome since at least the eighteenth century. Torticollis, say physicians, can arise from several sources. In the worst cases the affliction forces the sufferer to hold his/her head to one side, as it did for our breakfast companion. See the illustration at http://www.netterimages.com/image/2034.htm .

The replacement of “wry” with “rye” is in our Database, Earlier this year we speculated about additional contexts and rationales (above). None of the substitutions make plausible eggcorns, in my opinion. “Rye neck” may not be much better, but it does suggest a possible semantic justification: domestic rye sports a famously bent spike when it is ready to harvest.

Last edited by kem (2011-10-18 17:21:50)

Offline

 

#4 2011-10-18 23:02:58

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: "rye" for "wry"

Dixon Wragg wrote:

In what magazine did I find this not-real-intelligent gaffe? ¶ ...Wait for it… ¶ The Mensa Bulletin LOL

(fwiw) I’m sure it’s news to none of you that there is no direct correlation between intelligence tout court and orthographical prowess. My dad was a very intelligent man (much brighter than I), but never could spell worth a hoot. The family lore has many stories of creative spellings he came up with.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2011-10-18 23:03:21)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

Offline

 

#5 2011-10-19 06:53:41

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 633

Re: "rye" for "wry"

DavidTuggy wrote:

...there is no direct correlation between intelligence tout court and orthographical prowess.

No correlation? Really? Reference, please.

Offline

 

#6 2011-10-19 07:12:56

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: "rye" for "wry"

El tocayo Tuggy wrote:

I’m sure it’s news to none of you that there is no direct correlation between intelligence tout court and orthographical prowess.

Dixon responded:

No correlation? Really? Reference, please.

I have no references on the topic—but I do have fifteen years’ worth of direct observation garnered while teaching writing. And I agree with David. The disconnect can sometimes be startling. Quite some time ago, I had in one course a very young student at the college who was amazing—her papers blew away those of all the other students in the class. But when I gave an in-class quiz, I was surprised to find she was a very poor speller. Her brilliant analysis and jaw-droppingly broad range of knowledge were both in place—so she clearly wasn’t having the papers ghost-written—but the quiz was riddled with orthographic errors. I gently broached the topic, and she admitted she had a lot of trouble with spelling, but had learned to use spellcheck programs expertly; as long as she was behind a keyboard, no one would know. She wouldn’t have been so proficient in hiding her spelling problem if she hadn’t been so darned smart.

That’s admittedly an extreme example, but in my experience it’s not so uncommon for student papers with great thinking to have poor “presentation,” and vice versa.

Offline

 

#7 2011-10-19 07:26:46

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 633

Re: "rye" for "wry"

patschwieterman wrote:

El tocayo Tuggy…

Wha…? David’s not your tocayo – unless “David” happens to be your middle name. Or is “Pat” just a screen name?

I have no references on the topic—but I do have fifteen years’ worth of direct observation garnered while teaching writing.

With all due respect, our unsystematic judgment is notoriously undependable—certainly no substitute for a controlled study. I’ll try to find the time to research the matter soon, since my interest is piqued now.
And of course, anecdotes tell us nothing about the existence of a correlation, only that if there is a correlation, it’s not 100%.

Last edited by Dixon Wragg (2011-10-19 07:55:20)

Offline

 

#8 2011-10-19 15:27:59

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1171

Re: "rye" for "wry"

Los Tocayos are everywhere, and they are dangerous: http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story … 7pgnLF-mA.

Kem, poetic interpretation. Makes you wonder if there is a secret role for us in inventing beautiful justifications.

Offline

 

#9 2011-10-19 22:02:12

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 633

Re: "rye" for "wry"

David Bird wrote:

Los Tocayos are everywhere, and they are dangerous: http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story … 7pgnLF-mA.

Ohhh, I get the reference now. I don’t keep up on news stories about the latest bust of drug lords, as the only drug lords I’m interested in seeing taken down are the tobacco purveyors, and that ain’t gonna happen any time soon, more’s the pity.

Offline

 

#10 2011-10-19 22:35:41

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: "rye" for "wry"

Dixon wrote:

With all due respect, our unsystematic judgment is notoriously undependable—certainly no substitute for a controlled study

Reference please.

I’ll be very surprised if you can find a controlled study attempting to examine the relationship between intelligence and spelling.

Offline

 

#11 2011-10-20 12:35:57

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1171

Re: "rye" for "wry"

I interpreted David’s statement that there is no correlation between intelligence and orthography as a statement of possibility, not probability. It’s saying that it is possible for someone to be whip smart and yet an execrable speller. This argument is proved by the existence of a single case, although there are almost certainly many. Dixon interpreted this as a probability statement, i.e. having a higher IQ is not correlated in a statistical sense with the ability to spell. His argument would be proved by the existence of a nonzero correlation coefficient. I’m comfortable with both conclusions.

Beyond the particulars here, I have come belatedly to realize that intelligence is vastly more polyvalent than a simple reading of it would suggest. The greater the number and diversity of skills and talents that one examines, the harder it is to rank to people. In team-taught courses, there is often only very weak (but significant, of course) correlation between the marks given by different evaluators. In our undergraduate program, we teach by tutorial, where there is first a reading and dissection of a problem, and then study, then return to the classroom for reporting and discussion. Those good at one thing are often bad at the other. I am not capable of predicting, based on classroom work, how the students will fare on the exams. Note that this is a statement of possibility – there are students who surprise me completely in both positive and negative directions on the exam. Exam-taking, like spelling, is a skill that might have little or nothing to do with other skills.

Offline

 

#12 2011-10-20 19:07:59

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: "rye" for "wry"

You got it right, Tocayo. Dixon: I did say “direct correlation” and “tout court”; i.e. with no qualifications or modifiers added. My dad was incredible at math and mental visualization, mechanical work and so on, quite good at expressing thoughts that many considered worth hearing, he published a couple of enormous books (one a rendering into Spanish of the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek lexicon), but he as a bad speller. I am sure you are right, however, that there is a statistical correlation such as to show that in general smart people spell and analyze better than stupid ones, so you are right that it is anomalous (and therefore funny) for such an egregious misspelling/misanalysis to show up in a Mensa publication.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

Offline

 

#13 2011-10-23 21:14:48

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: "rye" for "wry"

I interpret Dixon’s speculation about a relationship between intelligence and proper spelling as implying that as intelligence rises, so does the likelihood of good spelling. As El Tocayo Pájaro already suggested, the problem of just what constitutes intelligence becomes both relevant and problematic here.

Here’s the biggest problem for me: Can’t misspelling often be seen as evidence of the kinds of pattern recognition, identification of analogy, and extension of logical principles that traditional IQ tests are (among other things) testing for? For instance, I’ve seen “it’s” for “its” decried as being a particularly“illiterate” error on discussion forums a number of times over the years. But that reanalysis could be the result of fairly sound reasoning: “its” is a possessive, and the “apostrophe s” is the usual marker of the genitive case in English; “it’s” would be a perfectly reasonable choice for the spelling of the possessive pronoun, and in earlier centuries, of course, it was. The problem is that we’ve also got the contraction “it’s” for “it is,” and we’ve conventionalized the use of the apostrophe in such words as a marker of the letter(s) lost through contraction; we decided to make a choice between the two “itses,” and the possessive pronoun lost its apostrophe. Nevertheless, while the people who use “it’s” for “its” don’t have a firm grasp on the contemporary standard spelling of this particular word, they may have made an excellent guess, demonstrating both that they recognize the grammatical function of the word, and the way in which that function is typically marked in English spelling. I see the workings of intelligence – not stupidity – in all this.

Of course, it would be possible to make this error haphazardly, without a recognition of the ideas I’ve just pointed to. But in my classes I regularly go over the “its vs. it’s” spellings (and other common errors that make you look “stupid,” in some people’s eyes at least), and students have often pointed out that “it’s” for “its” makes sense – so some writers are clearly thinking about the reasoning behind these spellings. And the astonishing frequency of this error also convinces me that it’s motivated by a conscious choice for many people. I suspect that it’s precisely the commonness of this error that has some labeling it as “illiterate.” And that in turn indicates a sort of paradox in the way that many people approach this kind of solecism: errors that have some kind of justification behind them are more common, so they irritate more people, so they tend to be called “illiterate.” In other words, there’s a weird tendency to go ballistic over exactly the types of errors that probably wouldn’t be errors if English spelling conventions made more sense. The illogic (or, occasionally, inevitable ambiguity) lies mainly with the orthographic system and not as much with its users.

What misspellers do lack is a firm grasp of orthographic conventions. So to what extent does that itself bespeak a lack of intelligence? That kind of “cultural knowledge” seems like the sort of thing that came increasingly under fire in critiques of psychometric techniques during the 80s and 90s; the fact that “wry” as in “wry humor” is spelled w-r-y can’t be deduced logically from the sound of the word—you’d need either to have remarked its correct spelling through observation or to have had that pointed out to you, and “dye,” “lye,” etc. run some interference here. From what I understand, IQ tests increasingly try to avoid testing for that kind of knowledge.

On the other hand, intelligence in any reasonable, practical sense is complex, and it can start shading into (among other things) what we might call “self-consciousness.” People with the kinds of skills that IQ tests do test for are probably often the sorts of people who, as small children, start noting consciously that the “long i” sound can have multiple representations in English (“ie,” “ye,” “ai,” “ay,” “eye,” “igh,” etc.). In addition, these kids may recognize that if you want to be considered intelligent, it’s good to be aware of which spelling is associated with which particular word. I remember quite consciously making mental lists of spelling exceptions by the time I was in second grade, and I was very conscious of the fact that my spelling ability bolstered my reputation as a “smart kid”; whether the perceived direct relationship between spelling and intelligence exists or not, I was working to exploit that perception at a tender age. But it’s possible that kids just as bright or brighter than myself didn’t place the same importance on it that I did – and therefore didn’t work as hard at it. Consciousness of spelling may reflect “social IQ” more directly than it does the kinds of reasoning IQ tests typically point to. And I’m not at all sure that the kinds of people who obtain extrastratospheric marks on IQ tests are the sorts of people who become the best spellers.

Offline

 

#14 2011-10-23 22:35:25

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1758
Website

Re: "rye" for "wry"

Well said, Pat. I agree that certain kinds of misspellings do indeed often reflect higher-level pattern recognition and computational (as opposed to memorizational) prowess, which are very important kinds of intelligence.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

Offline

 

Board footer

Powered by PunBB
PunBB is © 2002–2005 Rickard Andersson
Individual posters retain the copyright to their posts.

RSS feeds: active topicsall new posts