Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Here’s an official published eggcorn:
In the Dungeons and Dragons /Monster Manual/ (Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams, published 2000 by Wizards of the Coast), there are many examples of “fey” to mean “fairy-like creature”, as “Kobolds hate almost every other sort of humanoid or fey” (p. 68). I imagine this is an alteration of “fay”, a fairy. The semantic connection may be the derivative sense of “fey” as “affected, campy, overly whimsical”. Also, maybe they wanted a word that didn’t suggest homosexuality or femininity (as Fay is a female name), and they may have been influenced because “fey” in its original sense occurs several times in /The Lord of the Rings/. “Fay” doesn’t occur in the book (thanks to Amazon book search, <http://www.amazon.com/gp/sitbv3/reader/002-0351096-3432816?%5Fencoding=UTF8&asin=0786915528#reader-link>).
You can find lots of examples on the Web, as at <http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Station/6150/index8fairy.html>, a page titled FAIRIES, FEYS, WEE FOLK, LITTLE PEOPLE.
The Word of the Day™ today is fey, but none of the eggcornical crossed wiring with fay is hinted at in the definitions given, so I’m bringing this post back up to the surface for more love.
Oops, that’s A.Word.A.Day™.
Last edited by burred (2012-07-16 12:22:39)
According to my dictionary (New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd ed.), both “fey” and “fay” ultimately come from root words having to do with fate—“fey” from Old English “faege”, “fated to die soon”, and “fay” from Latin “fata”, “the Fates”, so there is a meaning connection. This along with the homophony, would seem to put fay/fey into eggcorn territory, except that the etymological connection, I think, precludes our calling this an eggcorn—right?
The subject of shared germ lines for eggcorns is an interesting one that I don’t think we can really build any hard and fast rule around, Dixon. There must have been some discussion about this earlier on the forum but I haven’t looked. IMO, etymological doublets have legitimate access to eggcornhood. Shared blood adds a twist to the story. I think you have to go case by case. I liked Jerry Friedman’s exposition above that captures the modern spirit of fey better than the dictionaries do.
But let’s dig down a bit. My understanding is that the word fay has meant “fairy” for more than 500 years. One can then trace it back through Latin, through Greek, to a hypothesized PIE radical, bha- , “speak”, which also gave us fame. Speech, especially from on high, then was considered powerful and holy. What the fairies said could change your destiny. It seems to me we’ve touched before on the subject of beguilement somewhere along the line on this forum. Oh yes, the .
Fey, on the other hand, comes from an O.E. root, and before that P.Gmc., that had nothing to do with the eponymous Fates, although similar sounding and also connected to doom. But not merely the doom that is synonymous with one’s ultimate fate, but the impending one, with its associated timidity, cowardice, and the “excitement” that presages death. The root was * peig-, meaning “evil-minded, hostile”, that also gave us foe. So predator and prey sprang from the same source.
All in all, eggcorn bait.
There are iconic characters and movies that will forever influence the face of fashion: Aubrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and her LBD, Fey Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde
That was her “little black dress”: I looked it up.
Poor doomed Fey Dunaway!
Last edited by burred (2012-07-20 16:13:27)
And I thought it was a simple matter of fay = fairy, a noun, and fey = an adjective meaning fairylike or otherwordly or effeminate. Mind you, some folk spray their E’s and A’s about pretty indiscriminately – for instance there are many examples of Morgan le Fay spelled le/la Fey/Feye. Her Italian manifestation, Fata Morgana, also a form of mirage, is often spelled Feta Morgana, which would be an excellent name for a Welsh cheese.