Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I confess I can’t see where this ‘whole raft of’ thing came from in the first place; me, I’d prefer “a big shipful”, as such a vessel would be far safer, and could carry far more too.
In terms of supporting heavy weights, ‘rafters’ make at least as much sense as ‘rafts’, and that it’s ‘rafter’ and not eye dialect for ‘raft of’ is made clear in the number of examples using, ” a whole rafter of”.
(I’d like to thank fishbait for introducing me to the term ‘eye dialect’ – of course we had the notion already, but having it condensed into just 4 self-explanatory syllables is invaluable.)
I don’t really think this is an example of an eggcorn, unless there are lots of construction workers unconsciously bending rafts into something they consider more worthy, so I’ve bunged it into ‘Slips etc.’
Hello there – I’ve stumbled across this board and registered because I can see there’s a whole rafter of knowledge on here. That can be very useful but, ...
www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/inde … 57799.html – 32k – Supplemental Result –
“There is a whole rafter of words that either come from the Internet or where the Internet has given them new meanings,” said Simpson. ...
wired.com/news/culture/1,21435-0.html – 21k –
Also associated with such tendencies are a whole rafter of psychological constructs, such as fear, paranoia, and projection, which inevitably lead to …
www.amazon.ca/History-Obsession-Klaus-P … 0826410898 – 59k -
Frankly, I find the original phrase extremely annoying. Given the nature of rafts, how could you tell if you had a whole one, against half a one?
The entertaining posts by both Peter and MartyArtie made me want to find out where this weird use of “raft” comes from. According to the OED, this “raft” is a a variant of “raff” (which also appears as an element of the word “riffraff”); in its first occurrences in the 14th century, “raff” meant “abundance, plenty.” But by the late 17th century, it was starting to signify “a large number or collection.” The OED notes that the “raft” variant was originally a dialectal and American usage. American writers start using “raft” to mean “a lot” by the first half of the 19th century, and today it’s clear from the OED’s examples that the word has now spread throughout Anglophonia. The watergoing vessel may have had a role in influencing the change of “raff” to “raft,” but that’s a bit unclear.
On the subject of expressions for “large quantities of”, shedloads versus shitloads – eggcorn, euphemism or mere inelegant variation? Is shedloads a BritEng expression only? (“shitloads” is more than twice as common as “shedloads” on the internet, according to Google.)
Oh, and if you do Google “shitloads”, you get a sponored link on the right-hand side that says
Buy Shitloads on eBay”
I’m sure you can …
I’m starting to be impressed with the range of stuff we’ve already talked about. It turns out that a longish “shedloads” thread already exists:
http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … p?pid=1996
The consensus seemed to be that this was largely a UK phenomenon, and it’s interesting to note that all of the regular contributors that I know to be Yanks sat that one out —we obviously didn’t feel we knew enough to add anything.
I’m pretty sure that the change from “raff” to “raft” in 19th-century America had everything to do with a “raft of logs.” This is not a vessel, or a “raft” in the Kon-Tiki sense. It is an immense quantity of logs-cut timber-enclosed or “boomed” together by a chain, and floated down a river, often at high water. This was a tremendously impressive sight, and a very common one wherever logging went on on a large scale.
Here’s a quote from Sarah Orne Jewett, the Maine writer who wrote “Country of the Pointed Firs”:
We had been “warping” a raft of logs down the lake that night; for the nights in May are generally less windy than the days, and ” warping,” or “booming,” is best done on calm water.When, in getting lumber down to the saw-mills, it becomes necessary to cross a lake, or an expanse of “dead” water, the logs, many hundreds in number, are first enclosed within a “boom,” or ” cordon,” consisting of long logs connected at the ends by huge, moveable pins, termed “thorough-shots.” Ahead of this great raft, often covering a number of acres, is hitched a “float,” built of very large, buoyant logs, and generally made twenty-four feet in length by about twelve in width. Upon this float is set up an upright capstan, pierced for eight levers, or “bars.”
Thanks Fishbait, that’s convinced me at least – now there were one or two other terms troubling me…
A funny tie-in to this: I’ve heard the substitution of “rash” for “raft”. As in, “He gave me a rash of shit for not going to work today.” I don’t even have an explanation.
I had always (I think!) understood a rash of Ns as a metaphor from a rash breaking out on the body, where the rash consists of a large number of pustules. The notion of an “outbreak” collocates with this.
I use both phrases. I speak (I think) of a (whole) raft of Ns where there is a large collection with fairly static membership; a rash of Ns fits where the Ns are popping up sporadically, but there is large number of them, and more are likely to be added to the number at any time; some may also be sporadically ceasing to exist or be relevant. In both cases there are enough that enumeration is likely to be more hassle than it is worth for the person addressed to process.
The Eureka Police Department continues to investigate a rash of dumpster fires that broke out over the weekend.
The notion that this is an eggcorn for raft of feels bizarre to me. (Of course eggcorns are, by definition, liable to bizarrety.)
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .
Given the interesting origin of the phrase a whole raft of, and the difficulty applying it in situations where a collection of sticks lashed together just doesn’t cut it, we shouldn’t be surprised that perps grab for any unlikely bit of flotsam to hold on to, including slabs of bacon, and whatnot. Connections are evident to rafts, rafters, and rashes.
Other hits could be found for illogical words that simply started with ra: a whole rascal of, a whole ramble of, a whole rattle of, a whole ravel of, a whole rabble of, a whole wrangle of, and…
I had always (I think!) understood a rash of Ns as a metaphor from a rash breaking out on the body,
The OED agrees with you, David:
Rash: ... 2. fig. A sudden outbreak of something, esp. something unwelcome or undesirable; a series of such things happening within a short space of time; a proliferation, a spate.