Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
“Skirl,” meaning to scream or shriek, is a Scandinavian word that found a home in Britain’s Danelaw. The term is often associated with the sound of bagpipes (“The skirl of the pipes called me home.”). A number of people see or hear the adjective “shrill” in place of the noun “skirl.” “Shrill” isn’t a bad description when the topic is bagpipes.
Oodles of examples on the web. Three of them:
: “ With a countdown and the shrill of the bagpipes he was off. ”
: “... with the continuous sounds of hacking and bashing and jabbing, and with the constant shrill of the bagpipes.”
: “Litteral or, symbolic, it draws you into the pages of the book as strongly as the shrill of the bagpipe !”
Do some speakers think that the phrase is “squirrel of bagpipes?”
Shrill works for me, despite a great fondness for pipe music.
They’re not easy to play either:
For myself, I would rather the skill of the bagpipes of a Highland regiment in full blast than five minutes of Miri music from a full orchestra.
Perhaps the association of bagpipes and kilts leads to unconscious errors like this:
The haunting skirt of the bagpipes during a private evening in Inverness, treasured family tartans,wee drams of single malt whiskies on a private distillery tour…
This makes me wonder about frequency effect of eggcorns. Some of them, like the above example, are centered around a fairly infrequent word like skirl (fewer than 1 per 10 million hits in the COCA corpus; fewer than 3 per 10 million hits in the BNC), whereas others occur from quite frequent words.
And that squirrel picture slays me!