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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2011-03-03 20:13:04

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2601

tampon << tamp+on, spiton << spitoon

The word “tampon” has been with us a lot longer than the sanitary apparatus that modern English speakers associate with the word. For the first four hundred years of its lexical life “tampon/tampion” referred to a plug used to stop up or close off something, such as a bung in a cask or the wad on top of the gunpowder in a breech-loading firearm. Only after 1930, when a Colorado doctor invented a product he tradenamed Tampax, did the sanitary usage begin to exclude, for reasons of prurience, other roles for the word.

Some people who employ the word “tampon” no doubt hear the words “tamp” and “on” in it. Hearing “tamp” might not be far off the mark: the nineteenth-century verb “tamp” is probably a backformation from the earlier “tampon.” Hearing the English preposition “on,” however, is eggcornish. The French source word for our “tampon” had “-on” as its natural ending, as many Latin-derived words do, and English borrowed from French the whole word, ”-on” ending included.

Large number of French words terminating with “-on” (both morphemic and nonmorphemic) and Spanish words ending in “-un” (nonmorphemic) and “-on” (morphemic, augmentative) have migrated into English over the centuries. Interestingly, many of these immigrants have ended up in English with a double “o,” perhaps in an attempt to represent either the longer Romance vowel or the stress on the last syllable. English words following this pattern are “harpoon,” “doubloon,” “balloon,” “cartoon,” “pontoon,” “bassoon.” “buffoon,” “cocoon,” “festoon,” and “saloon.”

So common is the “-oon” ending in English that it suggests itself as a morphemic suffix that can be appended to stems in order to generate new words. Just what the meaning of the morpheme might be is not clear, but this line of morphological reasoning has given us, among other words, the nineteenth-century English term “spitoon/spittoon,” a container to hold spit.

While the “-oon” words listed above, the ones that strive to represent foreign originals in English, do not usually tempt us to hear the preposition “-on,” “spitoon” does. A large number of web sites spell this word “spiton,” thinking perhaps that the receptacle is something on which we direct spit.

Examples of “spiton:”

Picture caption: “My partenal grandmother weaving coconut leaves into a “ketupat” She chewed sireh leaves and beetle nut and needed the spiton next to her.”

Forum post: “Sorry to answer the same question twice. Pass the spiton.”

Cell phone forum: “I just emptied my glass in the spiton after the first sip”

Description of a postcard picturing a train car: “The leather seats, luggage rack and what appears to be a spiton.”

Last edited by kem (2011-03-04 01:12:13)

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



#2 2011-03-06 16:55:54

.NetRolller 3D
Registered: 2010-12-10
Posts: 15

Re: tampon << tamp+on, spiton << spitoon

“Beetle nut” in your first quote is also a great eggcorn… for “betel nut”.

Perhaps someone who is addicted to Beatles may be termed a “Beatle nut”?



#3 2011-03-06 22:12:36

David Bird
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1561

Re: tampon << tamp+on, spiton << spitoon

Interesting. You can also relocate spit, in a manner of speaking, in a cuspitor.

Dental equipment description
At the chair, there may be a “spit bowl” or cuspitor, or there may be vacuum equipment designed to collect wastewater directly from a patient’s mouth through a saliva ejector. Water can drain from the cuspitor by gravity or it can be connected to a vacuum system.

Or the cup to spit into, the cupspidor:

Unusual laws
A cupspidor is required to be at the end of every bar rail.

Online auction item
Hi, Up for auction is a Fenton carnival glass Inverted Strawberry Footed Cupsidor. Well I think its a cupsidor, its very similar to others I have seen from Fenton.



#4 2011-03-07 00:06:40

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2601

Re: tampon << tamp+on, spiton << spitoon

Hadn’t really thought about beetle nut << betel when I did the post. The nut could be said to look a bit like a beetle. Not quite as good as “eggcorn,” but a good one, and extremely common.

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



#5 2011-03-07 11:36:01

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2154

Re: tampon << tamp+on, spiton << spitoon

Or do users think that betel is somehow made of beetles, or that beetles infest the nuts and perhaps contribute to their desirable flavor or other characteristics?

*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 .)



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