Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
We have had the lacklustre on the Forum and the classic “nip in the butt” . At a talk this weekend, I heard a new one. The speaker said “nibbed in the bud.” My first thought was that this was just an anticipation error for “nipped in the bud,” an idiom meaning “put a stop to at the very beginning” that derives from the horticultural procedure of pinching (nipping) off the growing tip of a plant. When I checked the expression on the web, however, I found many, many examples of “nib in the bud,” “nibbed in the bud,” and “nibs in the bud.” As you can see from the ngram, “nibbed in the bud” has become .
It seems likely, given its frequency, that “nibbed in the bud” is more than a simple verbal slip. The cart of sound is being pulled by a horse of meaning. But what horse? There is an English verb “nib” that means “to peck at,” but all of its usages are either obsolete or parochial. Another “nib” verb is the old term for sharpening the point (nib) of a pen or quill, but a change in technology has largely retired that expression from common speech. I suspect that speakers are equating “nib” with “nibble” and thinking that “nib in the bud” somehow references the act of biting.
There are also a half dozen examples of “nubbed in the bud.” These may double anticipation errors.
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.
There are 50 raw hits for nibbled in the bud, so that explanation has support.