Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
When I was a young man I memorized the long poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service, the Canadian Kipling. I just needed something funny to recite at campfires – I didn’t know then that I would spend most of my life as a Canadian or that I would end up living in the town (Victoria, BC) that Service called home for much of his adult life.
Last month I decided to swat up the poem for a talent night. Surprisingly, I remembered most of it. One line, though, gave me pause:
Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
Was it “in a trice” or “in a thrice?” Both sounded right to me. I looked up copies of the poem on the web and found that some sites had one phrase, some the other. A little more digging convinced me that Service actually wrote “in a trice.”
Service’s original wording is the historical phrasing. “At/in/on a trice” has been around in English since at least the fifteenth century. The noun comes from an old Teutonic verb meaning “to pluck, snatch.” provides some background on the history of “trice.” “Trice” may be the primal version, but “thrice” did not lag not far behind – “in a thrice” can be found in some published books from the 1800s.
Does using “thrice” for “trice” constitute an eggcorn? In looking up the phrase on the web I found that Jan Freeman, , got to the question before I did:
Is [replacing “trice” with “thrice”] just an error, though, or is it an eggcorn – a mistake that makes sense? It depends on whether people who say “in a thrice” connect it to “three” – shakes of a lamb’s tail, say, or a count of three. If you’re one of those people, the Eggcorn Database wants to hear from you – in a trice, not a thrice.
Connecting “thrice” to “three” does not make it an obvious eggcorn, however. Doing something three times tends to indicate completeness, fullness, rather than scarcity (e.g., “thrice-blessed,” “thrice told,” “in triplicate,” “thou shalt deny me thrice”).
A few of the many examples of “in a thrice” on the web:
: “This cunningly simple item attaches the torch to the bars, allows it to be released in a thrice and isolates the light from road shock.”
: “The footstool–I will have this cleaned off the carpet in a thrice.”
: “I’d recommend them in a thrice ”
I can’t make up my mind about this, either. Freeman’s reasoning seems to me within the realm of the possible, but I’m not fully persuaded. If people are using this eggcornically, the phrase “on the double” might also be one of the subconscious templates that seem to authorize the reshaping.
I’ve noticed tr>>thr reshapings before. My grandmother (from the Midwest) always used to talk about “thrash cans.” Trash cans do have a tendency to get thrashed, but I think the reshaping was solely phonological for her, not semantic. And I’ve had “threading water” (about 65 ugh for just that form alone) on my “maybe list” for probably years, but I can’t quite convince myself it’s an eggcorn.
When I was in high school, I knew two sisters who had memorized “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” And I’m pretty sure I have a memory of the older one reciting it at a campfire in Death Valley—which is notionally about as far from Canada as you can get.
None of the folk or straight etymological dictionaries from the 19th century got the origins for ‘trice’ right, but they do remark on and discount any connection to thrice.Strangely, “in a twice” is not out there.
Authors should send full papers (8 single spaced pages) in thriplicate or electronically (postcript, RTF, or plain ASCII) by July 30.
(hits in the dozens)
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .
I’m totting up the entries for the end-o-the-year list and came upon this discussion, which helps me to understand an odd one I’ve come across recently: enthrusted for entrusted, as if responsibility had been thrust upon one.
The external audit of Gimv and most of its subsidiaries was enthrusted to B.C.V Ernst & Young bedrijfsrevisoren, represented by Jan De Luyck, by the general meeting of 30 June 2010.
(http://www.gimv.com/view/en/6248262-+Ex … audit.html)
Im the freakin key of the whole world and it has its advantages but still, it sucks since I have all of this responsibility now enthrusted on me and yet I have love troubles since my best friend since I was freakin 7 loves me!
I thought Bill wouldn’t be so… * cough * well informed…and skilled of throwing his knownlegend into world’s history. Val already said, it but I’m gonna enthrust it to you ONCE more: NEVER ask your older brothers where babies come from.
Last edited by David Bird (2011-12-05 06:31:22)
I don’t know what it is about the tr>>thr shift, but it’s everywhere—“round thrip,” “enthranced,” “thrumps,” “race thrack,” etc.—and most of these get more hits than the typical eggcorns we’re finding these days. It can’t all be hypercorrection by Irish speakers of English (or can it?). Maybe there’s a WTF aspect here, but I really have no idea.
Last edited by patschwieterman (2011-12-05 14:35:40)
I don’t like “in a thrice” on grammatical grounds, because “thrice” is an adverb, not a noun, so there isn’t “a thrice”.
Trash cans do have a tendency to get thrashed, but I think the reshaping was solely phonological for her, not semantic.
Are all trash >> thrash reworkings orthographical relapses? A possible exception might be the expression “thrashed drive” for “trashed drive.” See the examples below – the web has dozens like these.
The impetus that pulls “trash” to “thrash” in this case may be the “thrash,” a verb used in geekese to describe the action of a disk that spends so much time swapping virtual memory sectors on and off the drive that it has no resources left to service normal file requests. A thrashing drive, which never seems to shut off, is well on its way to becoming a trashed drive.
: “I spent the last couple days playing silly buggers with a thrashed drive, so back at square one.”
: “However, since the hard drive is thrashed, I don’t have access to Acronis Home 10 which is what I think I was running.”
: “Chances are your drive is thrashed from the carnage, but if not, consider getting a new one anyway.”
Reading an old post by Kem, I saw that Peter was talking about extraneous h’s (w>>wh) years ago: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … hp?id=3906
“The Cremation of Sam McGee” introduced me to the verb “moil.” And outside of the synonym coupling “toil and moil,” I’m not sure I’ve seen it anywhere else.
Peter called those aitches “superstitious”. I tried recklessly to connect them to the breath of the world, a foray (or break?) which understandably made Kem nervous.
Superstition? The idea that extra aitches are a hieroglyphic reduction of the Ineffable looks like objective fact to me. And since the Ineffable is Immanent, that explains why they’re everywhere. More proof that Faith is the handmaiden of Science.
extra aitches are a hieroglyphic reduction of the Ineffable
Hey, it’s Christmas. I do mystical at Christmas. Every word stocking on the mantel is stuffed with submorphemic sound symbolism.
Last edited by kem (2011-12-31 04:16:08)