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#1 2011-09-17 22:56:44

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2160

play out << pay out

The Eggcorn Database entry on “play (pay) the piper” has a roundtripper that is far more common. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the nautical term “pay out,” referring to the act of letting out a rope, started to show up in written literature. We don’t know the term’s provenance – perhaps it started out as a metaphor of the gradual release, the paying out, of money.

Not long after the appearance of “pay out” in connection with ropes and lines we encounter “play out” as a substitute. It occurs, for example, in an 1871 American book of technical regulations: a fireman on a ladder lowers an injured person to the ground by “play[ing] out the line slowly while steadying the ladder.”

Today “play out” has replaced “pay out” in many contexts. It is especially popular in discussions related to fishing, perhaps a result of cross-fertilization between “playing out” the fishing line and and “playing” the fish. According the Google Ngram database, “playing out the line” and “paying out the line” have almost achieved parity.

Last edited by kem (2011-09-17 22:58:31)

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#2 2011-09-18 01:58:41

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1202

Re: play out << pay out

Great stuff, really interesting. I wonder if it has been blended with the sense of a story or theatrical piece or scenario: “we’ll see how it plays out”. Something similar is happening nowadays to how it pans out.

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#3 2011-09-18 05:08:40

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2160

Re: play out << pay out

Something similar is happening nowadays to how it pans out.

What is it being confused with?

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#4 2011-09-18 13:25:34

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1202

Re: play out << pay out

Ooops. You have to click on the second choice, “see how it plans out”. Google switches it in its maternal fashion. So play is to pay as plan is to pan. But now it occurs to me that “Let’s see how it plans out” is an eggcorn squash of pans and plays. It does seem to be common enough to suggest that it is becoming a routine expression for some.

It’s possible that the link only works the way I think it works if one uses firefox, as I do.

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