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#1 2017-06-17 05:58:17

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1197

"white beater" for "wife beater"

Sleeveless undershirts, which, I guess, are usually white, are colloquially referred to as “wife beaters’, apparently reflecting stereotypes about what class of people beat their wives and how they dress. Recently I happened upon this:

Emmah Lynch i have a student who commented on another kid sitting away from the group—”look at him sitting over there in his black beater thinking he’s all cool and stuff.” i had to explain it was a black WIFE BEATER. he thought white ones were called white beaters, so it only made sense that the black ones were called black beaters.
FB discussion

Upon researching this a bit, I was surprised to find that “white beater” in this sense is quite common, even having an entry in the Urban Dictionary and spawning the now-common term “black beater” through the same logic as expressed by the perp quoted above. This might be an eggcorn, though in the absence of the word “wife”, it’s hard to imagine what meaning the perps are attributing to “beater”.

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#2 2017-06-17 08:37:51

yanogator
Eggcornista
From: Ohio
Registered: 2007-06-07
Posts: 152

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

I would call it a second-generation eggcorn. These are much more difficult to find, because there is a two-step connection. If we get to sixth-generation eggcorns, we can call them Kevin Bacons, but it would take a ton of research and many assumptions to find one.


“I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin

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#3 2017-06-17 17:26:40

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1197

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

yanogator wrote:

If we get to sixth-generation eggcorns, we can call them Kevin Bacons…

Yum! Bacon and eggcorns!

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#4 2017-06-17 18:58:41

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2092
Website

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

I associate those undershirts with poor wife trash. (How’s that for being racist and sexist in one swell foop?)


*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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#5 2017-06-17 19:15:11

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1197

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

DavidTuggy wrote:

I associate those undershirts with poor wife trash. (How’s that for being racist and sexist in one swell foop?)

And don’t forget classist.

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#6 2017-06-17 19:22:07

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2092
Website

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

Two-shay. Or in this case is it three-shay?

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2017-06-17 19:22:50)


*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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#7 2017-06-17 22:40:17

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2092
Website

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

Back to the point at issue, this is a second-generation eggcorn only in the sense that it is a reasonable extension of a first-generation one. Changing wife to white is eggcornish; changing white to black isn’t, though it is a good indication of the legitimacy of the first eggcorn.

(We have had quite a few of these, actually. Often a different grammatical shape, e.g. a past-tense marking on what was originally a noun, or a noun pluralization of what was originally a verb, does the same sort of work.)


*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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#8 2017-06-23 07:37:05

yanogator
Eggcornista
From: Ohio
Registered: 2007-06-07
Posts: 152

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

I totally agree, David. I’ll re-think my label and call it the illegitimate child of an eggcorn. It’s still second-generation, but not actually in the family.

As for your parenthetical remark, isn’t it a current rule of English (at least in the US), that all nouns are now used as verbs? (I would put a smiley face, but this trend doesn’t make me smile at all!)


“I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin

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#9 2017-06-28 13:42:53

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2092
Website

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

Verbing nouns weirds language—Calvin (of and Hobbes). But it’s far from only a current rule: we’ve done it for centuries, and it’s enriched our language (besides admittedly giving rise to those bastardized forms that can make you grimmest.
.
(Is the frowny face a grimmest? :~( )

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2017-06-28 13:52:04)


*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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#10 2017-06-28 13:50:03

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2092
Website

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

Dixon Wragg wrote:

This might be an eggcorn, though in the absence of the word “wife”, it’s hard to imagine what meaning the perps are attributing to “beater”.

A shirt that you can beat up (either because it is tough, or doesn’t matter, or both), or one you can engage in energetic and possibly destructive behavior in?
.
I think I actually use the word in something near that sense. Of an old car that you don’t mind taking off road and messing up the body-work, or something like that — “It’s just an old beater”. A bicycle that you don’t feel you have to take care of and that holds up under mistreatment? Maybe other contexts?
.
Reminds me of the old joke about the sophomore holding forth on how illogical our language is. I mean, you don’t have to wear sneakers to sneak in, or a sweater to sweat, or a jumper to jump (etc. ad nauseam.)
.
To which a freshman replies, “All the same, if you don’t mind, would you do us all a favor and take off that wind-breaker?”

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2017-06-28 14:00:19)


*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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#11 2017-06-30 08:33:47

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2546

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

On the subject of English craziness, you might enjoy this John McWhorter essay.


Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.

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#12 2017-06-30 12:59:59

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2092
Website

Re: "white beater" for "wife beater"

kem wrote:

On the subject of English craziness, you might enjoy this John McWhorter essay.

Good (and funly expressed :~=grimmest ) article.

One thing he didn’t mention that continues to amaze me is how many vowels English distinguishes mainly if not only by vowel placement. Normal, rational languages, when they want a lot of vowels, use nasalization or laryngealization or tone to multiply a smaller set of vowels, but that’s too easy for English. I can distinguish keyed, kid, Kay’d, Ked, cad, cud, cod, cawed, code, could and cooed by their placement alone (OK, the “long a” and “long o” sounds of Kay’d and code are heavily diphthongized, but the strong vowels of those diphthongs start where there is no contrasting simple vowel located). Adding the true diphthongs gives us cued and cowed , and still leaves a couple of possibilities unused ( coyed or koid and kide , which I don’t have meanings for.) What other self-respecting language would do such a thing?! (And just try to teach somebody who grew up with a rational vowel system, a Spanish speaker for instance, to hear, much less make, all these distinctions!)

Also the number of consonants we enjoy at the beginnings and endings of syllables in words like strengths is noteworthy.


*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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