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#1 2011-06-24 10:10:26

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 581

"pratfall" for "pitfall"

It appears that this one is brand new to the Eggcorn Database!

I heard someone use ”...avoid that pratfall” for ”...avoid that pitfall” the other day, but don’t recall the exact context. Googling “avoid that pratfall” yields 57 “unique” results (though there was, in fact, quite a bit of repetition among these “unique” results). Typical examples:

“They didn’t avoid that pratfall in Game 3, but bucked the trend anyway.”

“It’s best to keep the first few dates low key to avoid that pratfall.”

“Brown said Ford will avoid that pratfall by sticking to its plan…”

“Let’s avoid that pratfall by planning earlier this year.”

I’d say it surely is an eggcorn, since both the sound similarity and meaning connection are there. How about it, folks?

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#2 2011-06-24 17:51:09

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

Re: "pratfall" for "pitfall"

Dixon, I think you’re right that the “avoid that pratfall” string would be less common without the influence of “pitfall.” But “pratfall” and “pitfall” can mean pretty similar things in context. The sense of “pratfall” as “an embarrassing screw-up, a humiliating defeat” is pretty well established, at least in informal writing. And that wouldn’t be too big a stretch in most of your examples. In some of these cases, “pratfall” might really have been the conscious choice of a speaker who knows the standard meanings of the word; in other cases, “pratfall” might be an instance of a flounder—a word with a similar sound and a good deal of semantic overlap with the acorn.

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#3 2011-06-25 17:23:57

Dadge
Eggcornista
Registered: 2005-11-10
Posts: 76

Re: "pratfall" for "pitfall"

I agree with Dixon that pitfall would’ve been the correct word to use in the examples he quoted and that pratfall has been used by mistake.

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#4 2011-06-25 18:16:48

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

Re: "pratfall" for "pitfall"

Hi Dadge—welcome back.

Dadge wrote:

I agree with Dixon that pitfall would’ve been the correct word to use in the examples he quoted and that pratfall has been used by mistake.

Okay. But why ? Why is “pratfall” a mistake in, say, Dixon’s fourth citation, where the writer is referring to the problem of having started to plan the Ninja Bros’ East Coast gathering too late in the summer? That seems to have been an embarrassment the year before—so why can’t “pratfall” be an “informed choice” there on the part of a speaker who knows what pratfall means in standard use? Can’t pratfalls be avoided, too?

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