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#1 2007-05-09 00:48:16

lex
Member
Registered: 2007-05-09
Posts: 2

"having a heyday"

Heard on a news broadcast.

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#2 2007-05-10 21:51:53

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

Re: "having a heyday"

Well, why do you find this striking?

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#3 2007-05-11 03:21:08

Techwreck
Member
Registered: 2007-05-10
Posts: 17

Re: "having a heyday"

Right – I’ve used this one (legitimately, I believe) all my life. Heyday indicates a period of great popularity, success, or power – arguably this period could conceivably span only a single day. Alternatively, and closely related, it can also indicate a prime….

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#4 2007-05-11 15:40:56

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: "having a heyday"

I’m not so sure. The usage “having a heyday” doesn’t draw properly on the dictionary definition of a heyday being a period of one’s greatest strength, vigor or prosperity. Instead, this usage seems to draw upon the definition of “hey” meaning exultation (but I don’t think the “day” part is necessarily taken literally every time). So, when I hear people say that someone is “having a heyday with” something, they seem to say that person is “exultant in his opportunity to attack” it. (I also don’t see “having a heyday” listed among the idioms in the dictionaries I’ve checked). Overall, this is leaning toward eggcorn usage in my book.

I could be wrong, but for now I’ll defend the viewpoint of this being an eggcorn until further evidence refutes it. (Or, as Peter Forster has pointed out: we eggcorn defenders are sometimes just masters of self-deception!)

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#5 2007-05-11 15:53:53

Techwreck
Member
Registered: 2007-05-10
Posts: 17

Re: "having a heyday"

BUT, it occurs to me that the intended use may have been more nearly approximated by the expression “having a field day,” depending on the context in which the phrase was employed – e.g., if they were reporting that “the media had a field day…” to indicate a high level of media frenzy surrounding an event. Perhaps they were initially headed for “field,” subsequently drifted toward “hay” by association, but inadvertently tripped over an eggcorn en route, landing them squarely in “hey” via substitution…

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#6 2007-05-11 17:38:59

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: "having a heyday"

Nicely argued Techwreck. The expression “having a field day” does seem to be involved here in the capacity you suggest. That’s really a brilliant observation. (Plus, I think it would have helped if lex had provided more comments in his original post. All we can do is guess). So, if the intended eggcorn is “having a hayday,”—as inspired by “having a field day,” then here are a few examples:

Masters of Deceit | MetaFilterLess because of the occasional bear wandering through town and more because of troupes of ravens having a hayday looking for some leftover jojos. ...
www.metafilter.com/60945/Masters-of-Deceit – 40k – Cached – Similar pages

NEOHAPSIS – Peace of Mind Through Integrity and Insightvalidity to this claim the major media would be having a hayday. The fact is, we are reading second-hand information, of fir-sthand people obviously …
archives.neohapsis.com/archives/fulldisclosure/2004-11/0329.html – 10k – Cached – Similar pages

Comments on: London: On the mediaMeanwhile, online agencies/outlets are having a hayday by bringing in the news as it happens (I saw this with the ferry accident, too). ...
www.fullstop.ca/blog/index.php/2005/070 … acks/feed/ – 6k – Cached – Similar pages

Things that make ya go…hmmmmm? – TopixYou should see the forums on Keith Richards, Holy cow are people ever having a hayday with this story, they either beleive it or they don’t…. for the most …
www.topix.net/forum/who/johnny-depp/T8RU5HAFTDFUS4612 – 50k – Cached – Similar pages

Last edited by jorkel (2007-05-11 18:15:36)

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#7 2007-05-13 16:03:01

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

Re: "having a heyday"

Ken Lakritz had an interesting post on “hayday” back in the early days of the Forum:

#173 Commentary by Ken Lakritz , 2005/03/12 at 9:29 pm
‘hay day’ for ‘heyday.’ (Also ‘hayday’ and ‘hay-day’). This eggcorn conceptualizes people at the height of their success as engaged in harvesting. Recall the idioms, ‘making hay’ and ‘making hay while the sun shines.’ Examples-
… Hergé embraced his hay day of creative work and he, and Tintin, became
world celebrities after the war had ended.
www.china.org.cn/english/2003/Sep/74265.htm
In his hay day, a good player but he should hung up his skates 6 years ago. …
forum.ebaumsworld.com/arc…
In his hay day, Mr. Ludlow was known to ingest the hash equivalent
of an ounce of marijuana in one sitting.
blog.dopies.com/spiritual…

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#8 2007-05-14 02:04:03

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: "having a heyday"

Pat: It sounds as if Ken’s eggcorn has fundamentally different usage and imagery from the one we’re discussing on this thread. Ken’s eggcorn derives from “in his heyday”—and involves a harvesting imagery. The current eggcorn derives from “having a field day” and involves different imagery—either hey-based or hay-based. But thanks for pointing it out.

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#9 2007-05-14 20:38:21

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

Re: "having a heyday"

Jorkel—
I didn’t mean to imply that Ken Lakritz had already posted the “having a heyday” idea, and of course I never said that. But I think the occurrence of “heyday/hayday” in both threads provides a perfectly legit basis for bringing them together—if in fact any justification is necessary.

I disagree with the claim that the imagery used in the two threads is “fundamentally different.” After all, the word “hay” is central to both here—that’s fundamentally similar imagery. Furthermore, most uses of the word “hay” have the idea of harvesting implicit in them by definition—if you’re growing grass that you don’t plan to harvest, you just call it “grass.”

But I want to get back to Lex’s original post of “having a heyday.” Is it an eggcorn? Maybe I’m missing something obvious here, but I can’t see how it could be. An eggcorn is a reshaping of a phonologically very similar word or phrase. What phrase is the “original” in “having a heyday”? I think Techwreck is absolutely right in her claim that “having a heyday” has been influenced by “having a field day,” but there’s just too big a phonological gulf between “field” and “hey” to support the eggcorn identification.

The spelling “hayday” for “heyday” might be an eggcorn, but it’s one of those situations where it’d be virtually impossible to point to any given instance of the phrase and say for certain that the writer hadn’t simply committed a misspelling. I think there are almost certainly people out there thinking of hay and harvesting when they say “hay day,” but I’m also sure there are many people who are just getting the spelling wrong.

I think part of the reason that “having a heyday” sounds so wrong to some of us is that use of “a heyday” rather than “the heyday.” In the standard uses of “heyday,” the word denotes a singular moment or period, and the employment of the definite article signals that singularity. In the two balloons below, I’ve given the 2nd OED definition for “heyday” and then the accompanying list of examples. Note that every single example that employs an article uses “the heyday”:

2. The stage or period when excited feeling is at its height; the height, zenith, or acme of anything which excites the feelings; the flush or full bloom, or stage of fullest vigour, of youth, enjoyment, prosperity, or the like. Often associated with day, and taken as the most flourishing or exalted time.

1751 SMOLLETT Per. Pic. (1779) II. lxviii. 221 Our imperious youth..was now in the heyday of his blood.
1768 STERNE Sent. Journ. (1775) 86 (Hotel at Paris), I was interrupted in the hey-day of this soliloquy, with a voice.
Ibid. 135 (Maria, Moulines) To travel it through the sweetest part of France{em}in the hey-day of the vintage.
1807-8 W. IRVING Salmag. (1824) 143 In the good old times that saw my aunt in the hey-day of youth. 1824 SCOTT St. Ronan’s iii, In his heyday he had a small estate, which he had spent like a gentleman. 1831 LYTTON Godolphin 38 In the flush and hey~day of youth, of gaiety, and loveliness.
1839 LONGFELLOW Hyperion IV. ii, The heyday of life is over with him.
1873 SYMONDS Grk. Poets vii. 232 In the bloom and heyday of the young world’s prime.
1877 MRS. OLIPHANT Makers Flor. xiv. 346 He was no more than thirty-six, in the hey-day of his powers.

Judging from the foregoing list, the use of “a heyday” may feel a bit wrong because it seems to imply that one may enjoy more than one heyday.

So is “having a heyday” poor usage? I don’t know. At the moment, I think it’s too rare to be considered “standard.” “Having a field day” gets 190k ghits, but “having a hey day” gets only 2820 and “having a heyday” gets 1020. (The fact that the two-word version “hey day” gets more hits may support the idea that people are influenced by the two-word “field day.”) On the other hand, books.google.com returns 217 hits for “having a heyday,” and among those are a use by the acclaimed novelist Ivan Doig in his novel Prairie Nocturne and another one by the philosopher George Boas in his Rationalism in Greek Philosophy.

Even if “having a heyday” isn’t an eggcorn, there may be something a little eggcornish in the development of “heyday” in English. No one knows where the phrase comes from, but in its earliest instances it seems to refer to “a state of exaltation or excitement of the spirits or passions,” according to the OED. There isn’t any reference to a period of time here, and the OED states further that “the second element does not seem to have been the word day, though in later use often identified with it.” In other words, the occurrence of the element ”-day” in the word was probably just a coincidence and it may have helped change the word’s meaning. So our current definition of “heyday” may be an example of a “hidden eggcorn.”

A last note in this already lengthy post. In recent decades, usage commentators have noted that the phrase “salad days”—which used to mean a period of youthful inexperience—now seems increasingly to mean one’s “heyday.” It’s interesting that all these vaguely agricultural phrases involving the word “day” seem to be influencing each other.

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#10 2007-05-14 21:51:02

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: "having a heyday"

I guess it would be safe to say that “field day” originated independently of “heyday,” and it would only be a matter of time before the notion of “hay” got between the two concepts to exert a latent or hidden eggcorn influence. In the midst of all this, there seems to be an idiom blend aspect to contend with as well. Here’s the sequence I suspect…

...in one’s heyday—original usage
Having a field day—original usage (probably not as old as “heyday”)

hayday—eggcorn of heyday

Having a hay day—idiom blend adopting the eggcorn
Having a heyday—hypercorrection of idiom blend: removing the eggcorn

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#11 2007-05-18 21:47:21

klakritz
Eggcornista
From: Winchester Massachusetts
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 674

Re: "having a heyday"

Perhaps this is a bit off topic, but somewhere in Wittgenstein”s Philosophical Investigations he observes how peculiar it would be to say, “He momentarily felt intense grief.” It wouldn”t be ungrammatical to make such a claim, but it would show that the speaker had a misunderstanding about emotional states and their “philosophical grammar.”.

Like intense grief, a heyday isn”t something that comes and goes quickly. In particular, a heyday isn”t a kind of day. So I doubt we”re looking at an eggcorn, but rather at a more philosophically interesting conceptual error.

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#13 2013-01-24 01:37:01

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 657

Re: "having a heyday"

patschwieterman wrote:

No one knows where the phrase comes from, but in its earliest instances it seems to refer to “a state of exaltation or excitement of the spirits or passions,” according to the OED.

My dictionary (New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition, 2005) says that “heyday” is derived ”...from archaic heyday!, an exclamation of joy, surprise, etc.” (Archaic in this context means some time before the late 16th century.) This doesn’t give us the ultimate derivation of the word “heyday” itself, but it does give us the pre-phrasal form, free of any complicating articles (whether definite or indefinite), and establishes that both the spelling “hey”’ and its association with “day” are very old, predating the incorporation of the word into a phrase. And FWIW, my dictionary’s account of the derivation of “hey” is that it’s a “natural exclamation, first recorded in Middle English”.

I agree with the notion that “making hay (while the sun shines)” likely has an eggcornish influence in at least some cases, and I’m thinking that there may even be a few cases wherein “halcyon days” has had an unconscious effect.

And what brings all this up after so long? Simply the fact that I found this in an email chat-list today:

In the hay days of the early 90s tech boom, some 30-yr olds were talking about retiring by the time they were 40.

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