Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
The phrase “to butt into,” meaning to intrude uninivited, may have both a hidden and a semi-hidden eggcorn.
Hidden: “Butt” in the phrase “to butt into” is a figurative use of the word that references the butting action of an animal (e.g. billy goat, ram). This “butt” sources itself from the romance languages. I wonder how many English speakers think it has something to do with the Teutonic “butt,” the word for the thick end of something, such as a tree or a cigarette, and from thence to the common word for the latitudinous organ of sitting. When you butt into a conversation, you are, after all, interposing unwelcome parts of yourself into a discussion. Note, too, that “stick your butt into” with the same meaning as “butt into.” I’m also wondering if the North American expression “to butt out,” which has become popular recent decades, hints at the hidden eggcorn. “To butt out” was presumably formed as an analogy to “butt into,” but, if you think about it, butting out of something doesn’t make literal sense – unless you are imaging the anatomical “butt.”
Semi-hidden: “to but into,” the single “t” may signal more than a misspelling. We employ the word “but” to inject ourselves into a conversation when we disagree with something we hear. (“I heard that Jim snuck into her house…” “But,” her friend interjected, “you didn’t actually see him, did you.” ). “To but into” only sticks out in written form, however – the sound is the same as “butt into.” So, short of an outright confession, we can’t really know how many – or even if any—of the many thousands and thousands of examples of “to but into” on the web are eggcorns. Some of them must be. But I think I hear Pat sharpening knives in another part of the clubhouse.
Last edited by kem (2011-12-02 03:21:32)