Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I encountered this in a chat-list post: “Liith is said to be a fierceful type.. against the male.. yet.. whenever there is a solar eclipse and Lilith is nearby.. the Eclipse is not total but annular or partial…”
Probably a blend of “fierce’ and “fearful” in many cases, possibly an eggcorn in at least some cases. Googling the word and then screening out repetitions, usage of the word as a screen-name, etc. from a random sample of Google pages left me with around 300 unique hits. Quite a few of them come from people for whom English is clearly at least a second language, like the caption “Polite tiger but fierceful” under a picture of a leopard. Other typical examples:
Fierceful battles, heavy losses
Queen Yuna the Fierceful Guinea Pig
Do I look fierceful enough?
She never forgets how fierceful her math teacher was…
Though Meng is a very evil looking, fierceful guy…
Strike down, this fierceful entity.
Such a fierceful appearance
Having A Fierceful Attitude
The OED, which cites “fierceful” from the seventeenth century, says it is now obsolete. The comment itself is obsolete. “Fierceful” lives and breathes. Many of the modern examples of “fierceful” – perhaps all the ones you cite – are the result of tacking the ”-ful” suffix (=characterized by) onto “fierce.” See . It may be that familiarity with “fearful” licenses these “fierceful” recoinings in some mysterious way, but I would not want to call these examples eggcorns.
On the other hand, there are certain quasi-idiomatic phrases with “fearful” that should not contain “fierceful.” These may be eggcorns. Take, for example, “fearful odds:”
: “Notwithstanding, the movie succeeds to reflect the overwhelming sense of commitment in the face of fierceful odds put in the way of justice and peace by South Africa’ s special branch police officers .”
Last edited by kem (2012-05-21 11:57:54)
OneLook found no references to “fierceful” in any of the 40 dictionaries it scanned for the word. I guess the OED wasn’t one of them.
I think that in many (most?) cases, “fierceful” can’t be attributed simply to the process of people adding the suffix ”- ful” to “fierce”. If that were the explanation, wouldn’t we also expect to see “fastful”, “strongful”, “smartful”, “boldful”, etc. etc.? We do commonly see nouns with the ”- ful” suffix added, such as “beautiful”, “awful”, “careful”, “prideful”, but we don’t often see adjectives with the redundant addition of the adjectival suffix ”- ful”; it wouldn’t make much sense. That’s why, I think, we must posit another factor to explain the origin of “fierceful”. In the vast majority of cases (possibly excepting usage by linguists or history buffs), we presumably can’t explain the modern use of “fierceful” by invoking the user’s knowledge of the obsolete word, because very few people know of that word’s existence. The only plausible hypothesis I’ve come up with to explain “fierceful” is that it’s a blend of “fierce” and “fearful” which reflects an eggcornish connection between the meanings of the two words. The existence of phrases like the one you cite, kem—“fierceful odds”—in which “fierce” is clearly substituted for “fear”, increases the likelihood that in most cases “fierceful” is a blend of “fierce” and “fearful” rather than just an instance of people’s adding the adjectival suffix ”- ful” to a word that’s already an adjective. I think this situates “fierceful” squarely in eggcorn territory.