Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
“Curtsey” for “courtesy” (chiefly in “curtsey of” and “curtsey call”) is already on our eggcorn list, but today I was reading a “Wee Willie Winkie’s World” comic strip from 1906 and found this: “The wind begins to blow and the treelet sways gracefully, first to one side, then to the other, and courtesies to the old granny-trees in the background…”.
Googling “she courtesied” yielded around 400 unique hits. All of the ones I looked at were eggcorns. Typical examples:
She courtesied and quickly stepped out of the room.
“I am Mrs. Dillon,” said the silk mercer’s wife, as she courtesied.
She courtesied low to the Queen and awaited permission to speak.
In addition to the obvious meaning connection and similarity in pronunciation, this substitution is especially understandable given that the two words were synonymous as recently as the mid-16th century, with “curtsey” in the specific sense splitting off from “courtesy” later in that century. Since the first example I found was from a 1906 comic strip, I’m wondering if that usage was more common back then. Not sure how I’d go about finding out.
The spelling “courtesy” for “curtsey” was common through most of the nineteenth century. You can see this of “courtesied” by clicking on the Victorian-era links at the bottom of the graph page. Your 1906 comic is following a well established tradition.
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.
D’oh! I was trying to figure out how to use the N-gram to get that info, but it didn’t occur to me to use the -ed form of the word. Good call, kem! The N-gram is a fascinating thing.
“Courtesy while you’re thinking what to say. It saves time.”Alice wondered a little at this, but she was too much in awe of the Queen to disbelieve it. “I’ll try it when I go home,” she thought to herself, “the next time I’m a little late for dinner.”