Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
A while ago I found “I will not be cow towing to their ego” on a blog somewhere, but forgot to note the web address. However, a google of “cow tow” gets 20,000-odd hits. But it’s still an eggcorn, right? When does an eggcorn stop being an eggcorn and become a ‘real’ word?
(I feel a little sorry for the cow.)
Ken Lakritz submitted a variant of this—“cow toe”—some time ago. His post is here: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=78
They’re both amusing, but I’m not sure that either one is an eggcorn. You’ve got to use a lot of imagination to convince yourself that the speakers are consciously drawing connections between towing cows or cows’ toes on the one hand and kowtowing on the other.
I see. I noticed when I clicked on a couple of the hits that some people were wondering what cows had to do with it, but I also wondered whether in most instances it was just a mistake by people who realized the word came from Chinese but didn’t know how to spell it. I guess that just makes it a spelling mistake.
I wonder – and here’s where English orthography somewhat fails us – how those who write <cow tow> pronounce it. It seems fairly clear that <cow toe> is pronounced /kawtow/ (perhaps with variable stress), but <cow tow> could be either /kawtow/ or /kawtaw/. The latter seems like a spelling variation, the former like an eggcorn. (Next question: Is dragging a bovine about somehow an act of obsequiousness?)