Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
In commentary #4 on the clique > click page, Erik Kowal said:
The pronunciation of ‘clique’ as ‘click’ is a standard one in much of the USA, where, because it is rare to be taught French at school, variant pronunciations of French words easily gain a foothold…
I agree with Erik, and have an interesting anecdote to add. I attended a small independent elementary/middle school where we were taught French beginning in pre-kindergarten. I first encountered the word “click” in 3rd or 4th grade, when cliquishness became a much-commented-upon feature of female society in my class. As an avid reader, I had already encountered “clique” in print and, thanks to my French classes, automatically pronounced it “cleek”.
The wildfire-like spread of “click” among my classmates caused me no end of consternation—I was unsure at first if this was a separate, valid word with a similar meaning, or a mispronunciation. In the course of discussions with classmates over the next few years, it became apparent that most of them thought “click” was an entirely separate word from “clique”.
Like me, if they saw “clique” in print, they would give it the french pronunciation, thanks to our shared training. However, since few of them read as voraciously as I did at a young age, they first saw “clique” long after they heard “click”. They heard “click” first from their parents (and a few teachers) who had the typical American unfamiliarity with French (we were definitely getting more foreign language instruction in school than almost any of our parents had received).
Last I knew, most of these people left middle school with their belief in a “click”/”clique” dichotomy intact.
Finally, this last comment is highly speculative, but FWIW: My classmates seemed to use “click” to describe exclusive (and often catty) social groups of school-aged girls, whereas “clique” had a more general and less age-specific connotation. I think all of us would have recoiled from something like, “her apartment became the gathering place for an influential intellectual click”.
I think this is what jorkel refers to as a “stealth eggcorn”, mainly due to the fact that “clique” is almost always mispronounced “click” in the english lanquage. I know this from the fact that accquaintences of mine who are smart enough to know foreign lanquage import words but not smart enough to know how to pronounce them. These friends would spell it correctly but mispronounce it. See discussion on “coup de grace” being pronounced “coup de gras”(cut of the fat, ...yeah, I know, let’s just be glad we’ve been brought up to speed). Anywho, these are mistakes made by the overly-intellecual. But, getting back to the point that jorkel so eloquently makes, it’s the imagery that has changed in people’s minds who don’t know that the word is being pronounced incorrectly. In this case, I think the imagery of many hearers hearing “click” is just that; a group you “click with”. Jorkel, you out there? What’s your read?
It’s a clever story with some subtlety to it. The only element that seems to be missing is the imagery associated with the word “click” which would lead us to classify it as an eggcorn. The poster booboo makes an insightful observation toward developing that needed imagery…
I think the imagery of many hearers hearing “click” is just that; a group you “click with”.
The imagery that I would associate with “click” is the sound that two mechanical parts might make when being assembled. The “click” is almost an affirmation of proper fit. This might be the final element needed for an eggcorn. Do others have alternate images for “click with?”
Last edited by jorkel (2007-04-16 10:53:17)
I think this is what jorkel refers to as a “stealth eggcorn”, mainly due to the fact that “clique” is almost always mispronounced “click” in the english lanquage.
That’s perhaps a subtle distinction as well. I reserve the term “stealth eggcorn” for those situations where the spelling has not changed, but the meaning has. In the current case, the pronunciation has changed—perhaps unknowingly on the part of the speaker—and we don’t realize that the listener has an alternate spelling in mind until he actually puts it down on paper. So, yes, it possesses a certain stealth in the sense that we don’t have a record of the change, but this is not what I intended for the term I coined.
‘Clicked’ can have a similar meaning to ‘scored’ or ‘pulled’ which suggest a measure of success in impressing a member of the opposite sex. There is a Wodehouse story called, ‘The Clicking of Cuthbert’ which I imagine features Cuthbert, against all the odds, winning the heart of a vastly superior young lady. He clicks, she clicks; they fit together. This any help jorkel?