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#1 2009-04-23 13:07:59

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2153

rosemary beads << rosary beads

In an earlier post I called attention to the corruption of the word “Haftarah” among persons of Jewish faith. Today Catholics get their turn.

The rosary is a set of beads that help Roman Catholics perform a certain cycle of prayers. Rosary beads are arranged so that the person telling the beads can do ten short Hail Mary prayers while fingering smaller beads then complete the cycle with a Pater Noster and other prayers at a larger bead. The word “rosary,” an adaptation of “rosarium,” a Latin word for a rose garden or garland, appears in English as early as Chaucer.

Since many of the rosary prayers are concerned with Mary, the mother of Jesus, the popularity of the rosary is a barometer for special devotion to Mary. It is only a short step, then, from “rosary beads” to “rosemary beads.” The web has hundreds of examples (see below) of this confusion.

The person saying “rosemary beads” is invoking, not the normal semantics of “rosemary” (a pungent herb), but a faux-semantics that breaks the word into two components and lets the meaning of each component influence the substitution of “rosemary” for “rosary.” Whether this is really faux-semantics, however, is an open question, since the word “rosemary” may itself be an eggcornical interpretation that breaks the word into its two components. “Rosemary,” the OED reports, is “an alteration of rosmarine ad. L. ros marinus …. The L. name means ‘sea-dew’, which has been supposed to have reference to the plant growing near the sea. In English…the first element has been assimilated to rose…and the second may have been taken as the name of the Virgin.”

Examples:

A picture of a tattooed rosary with the caption “Tattoo of Rosemary Beads

Photo of an expensive rosary with the caption “Amber Rosemary Beads

A posted question on the Australian Vogue site “Has anyone else seen guys wearing normal clothes with rosemary beads??? I have seen soo many different guys wearing like polos with jeans and rose mary beads!!”

The final example comes from p. 367 of James Martin’s My Life with the Saints. While working in a prison Martin met a man who “kept rosary beads (or ‘ rosemary beads,’ as he called them) under his pillow for daily use.”

Last edited by kem (2009-04-23 13:08:49)

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#2 2009-04-23 19:47:42

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

This is great. There’s a really strong identification of the Virgin Mary with roses in Catholic iconography. The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe is just one example—she made old-world roses spring up for a Mexican man in December. (And she spoke to him in Nahuatl—how cool is that?) This reshaping brings Mary and roses together rather satisfyingly.

It’d be interesting to see how often this appears in clearly Catholic contexts—my guess would be that non-Catholics are responsible for the bulk of the instances, though my own upbringing might be a source of bias here.

In the strictest interpretation of eggcorns, I’m not sure that extra syllable in “rosemary” would pass mustard. On the other hand, the Database does have a few syllable-heavy entries like “batter the eyelids” for “bat.”

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#3 2009-04-24 01:43:40

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1780
Website

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

I agree, an excellent one. (Been having a run of those.)
.
(1) Where’s the extra syllable? For me rosary has three syllables and so has rosemary .)
.
(2) I would find a ban on extra syllables to be a pretty weird thing. Especially if they are non-accented, like the – er in batter your eyelashes . Is the problem that Rosemary would have an accented syllable where rosary has an unaccented one? ([ˈɹozˌmeɹi] vs. [ˈɹozɹ̩ˌɹi] for me in careful speech, but I can also say [ˈɹozmɹ̩ɹi].) Anyhow, it seems to me to be within the limits of phonological variation that it would be reasonable to allow.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#4 2009-04-24 02:32:40

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

OK, part of the problem here is very different pronunciations of the words in question. For me, rosary has two syllables (“rohz-ree”). “Roh-zuh-ree” sounds “marked” to my ears—either emphatic or pretentious. I grew up in a very Catholic household (and I can see my rosary from where I’m sitting)—perhaps that severe reduction of the syllable is the result of frequent use of the word. Rosemary, by contrast, always has three well-articulated syllables for me, with almost equal stress on the first two; I would never reduce the a in the name of the plant to a schwa or anything similar. (In your phonological transcription above, what’s the upsidedown r with the strike below it?). That’s not the case, however, in the case of the name “Rosemarie.”

So yes, a fairly strongly accented syllable where the other word has none makes a big difference. The two sound so different to me that I can’t imagine them being within the limits of phonological variation for each other. But I also find “batter the eyelashes” fairly problematic; I just don’t think it’s close enough to be a really well-formed eggcorn. And as I’ve pointed out before, no one on the forum has ever attempted to define the acceptable limits of phonological variation.

.

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#5 2009-04-25 00:27:39

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2153

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

Good point about the pronunciation of rosary, Pat. My guess would be that those who substitute “rosemary” for “rosary” may not be pronouncing the word as ROSE-MAY-ree. In taking leave of the normal semantics of the word “rosemary” they may also have abandoned its received pronunciation. Perhaps they are saying ROSE-muh-REE beads, which is much closer to ROS-ree or ROS-uh-REE.

Last edited by kem (2009-04-25 00:58:15)

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#6 2009-04-25 18:47:37

nilep
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-03-21
Posts: 291

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

patschwieterman wrote:

(In your phonological transcription above, what’s the upsidedown r with the strike below it?)

The upside-down r represents the “rhotic approximant,” the r-sound commonly used in US or Canadian English, which is different from the rhotic in Scots etc. The strike below it indicates that it is syllabic – it constitutes a syllable that doesn’t contain a vowel as such.

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#7 2009-04-25 23:07:45

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

Thanks, Nilep—that actually seems to move me and DT a little closer together than I’d thought. The idea of a well-articulated schwa in “rosary” seemed very alien to my ears, and as I went around quietly saying it to myself after reading David’s post, I started thinking that that pronunciation (with a schwa) had something humorous or even irreverent to it. Perhaps it was the sheer otherness of it for me, but after a while I started wondering whether my impression wasn’t being influenced by all those words ending in ”+ery” or ”+ury” that denote something unpleasant or dubious—like “misery,” “thievery,” “trickery,” “mockery,” “trumpery,” “perjury,” “injury,” etc. Of course, there are words like “surgery” that don’t have such associations, but I wondered whether dropping that central vowel wasn’t an unconscious attempt to avoid associations with things that shouldn’t be associated with the rosary.

[WTF typo alert—I wrote originally “hand” rather than “have” in that last sentence. That’s how weird WFTT’s can get.]

Last edited by patschwieterman (2009-04-25 23:08:49)

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#8 2009-04-25 23:39:24

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1780
Website

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

Well, surgery is pleasant, I suppose, but I wonder if it really fails of being dubious?
.
Actually, rotary is the word that came to my mind. And a memory of one time (perhaps the only time? I am not sure) that I was in a Rotary Club meeting, hearing all those hearty male voices singing “Meet together, eat together / Ro-ta-ry!/ Play together, stay together / Ro-ta-ry!” Like nothing so much as an adult boy-scout club. No offense intended to anyone, but I did find it funny.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#9 2014-02-10 22:10:13

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 653

Re: rosemary beads << rosary beads

Last night I found:

During the procession, hundreds of people gather after the statue and pray the rosemary
Catholic info site

Im pretty sure my mom has to know it, she notice i dont communion anymore, and has stop making me pray the rosemary
comment thread

I know how to pray the Rosemary.
mommy blog

Then I searched under “rosary rosemary” in the Eggcorn Database and found that this thread already exists. (I usually search the Eggcorn Database before doing a general Internet search because sometimes the former renders the latter redundant.) Oh well, at least my examples are in a slightly different form than “rosemary beads”.

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