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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2015-07-08 12:55:53

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2617

livelong (hidden)

A day, a livelong day, is not one thing but many. It changes not only in growing light toward zenith and decline again, but in texture and mood, in tone and meaning, warped by a thousand factors of season, of heat or cold, of still or multi winds, torqued by odors, tastes, and the fabrics of ice or grass, of bud or leaf or black-drawn naked limbs. And as a day changes so do its subjects, bugs and birds, cats, dogs, butterflies and people. —John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

The word “livelong” at the beginning of the Steinbeck quotation is based on a pair of teutonic roots. The “live” part comes from the same word constellation that gave the Germans “Lieb.” The base term means “dear/cherished.” In English we still hear it—but not often— in the phrase “I would as lief … as ….” Somewhere, back in the northern mists, “lief/lieb/live” is related to “love.” So “all the livelong day” once meant “all the dear long day.”

Modern speakers silently import into “livelong,” I suspect, the unrelated word “live,” a cognate of the German “Leib” (body). They may be encouraged to do this by “lifelong,” a word that is parallel to “livelong” in both sound and meaning.


Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.

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#2 2015-07-09 07:33:58

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1572

Re: livelong (hidden)

Really interesting. No need to import live into this word, it was done 4 centuries ago.

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#3 2015-07-09 07:40:24

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1572

Re: livelong (hidden)

kem wrote:

In English we still hear it—but not often— in the phrase “I would as lief … as ….” Somewhere, back in the northern mists, “lief/lieb/live” is related to “love.”

I would as lief got eggcorned into I would as leave way back as well. I always read that as some strange mix of by your leave and I can take or leave.

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