Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Saw this one this morning: “Hell in a handle basket” instead of “Hell in a handbasket.”
I’ve also seen “Helena Handbasket,” but that seems to be used more as a pun than an eggcorn.
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|Flag |#3 Apr 17, 2007
Nothing they do shocks me…....
This country is going to hell in a handle basket IMO.http://www.topix.net/forum/news/terri-s … LCRSMCVBJV
I’m struggling a little with this because I haven’t made enough effort to determine whether “handle basket” is a common substitution for “hand basket.” Perhaps someone could help out with that.
At any rate, here are the Google hits (June 4, 2007):
179,000 “hand basket”
26,100 “handle basket”—potential eggcorn.
and more specifically:
358,000 “hell in a handbasket”
103,000 “hell in a hand basket”
2 “hell in a handle basket”
Based on these results, I’m guessing that a “handle basket” is a common item that isn’t often confused with a hand basket. It would appear that it’s occurrence in the idiom is extremely rare. (Actually, I’m rather surprised there aren’t hundred of occurrences).
But, lets step back and consider “handle basket” by itself. That, per se, is an eggcorn for “hand basket” if it doesn’t already have it’s own distinct meaning. (Pardon my ignorance here again). This alteration reminds me a little bit of “holdster” for “holster” and “hoppy horse” for “hobby horse” —where a more functional word is introduced into the desciption.
Here’s the only other citing of “hell in a handle basket” I could find…
:: View topic – Justice?And the US would go to hell in a handle basket... Whooops…it’s already there…. Awww..hell…I would vote for him. I’d like to see how an anarchist would …
www.jenningsgp.com/forum/viewtopic.php? … 9dd04c60aa – 78k – Supplemental Result – Cached – Similar pages
Some baskets have handles, some don’t—so people use “handle basket” to specify the latter. The archetypal easter basket is a good example of a handle basket. Some speakers may arrive at “handle basket” eggcornishly, but I don’t think the term itself is an eggcorn.
I’ve occasionally heard people refer to the baskets attached to the handlebars of a bicycle as “handle baskets”—bicycle supply stores usually call them “handlebar baskets.” In any case, I like the image of riding to hell in a bike equipped with one of those quaint baskets.
‘Handle basket’ hardly rolls off the tongue and has a whole extra syllable – perhaps it’s a bit of hyper-correction? Now ‘hambasket’ and ‘ham basket’ get over 100 hits…
This world is going to hell in a ham basket. Yes, I realize that’s not how the saying goes, but it wasn’t all that long ago that I thought it did. ...
www.suzannemcdonough.com/pages/archives/december06.html – 99k – Cached
Jesus, this forum has literally gone to hell in a hambasket. We have lost three pillar members in a matter of minutes, and all the blame goes to what? ...
www.zeldauniverse.net/forums/general-ch … ad-64.html – 92k – Supplemental Result – Cached
I am becoming very wary of mis-spellings, but surely anyone who can spell ‘basket’ should have no great difficulty with ‘hand’? (Hambag and ham bag for ‘handbag’ also have many hundreds of citations – has pig leather ever been a traditional material for handbags and baskets I wonder?)
I like “hambasket” a lot. We’ve found quite a number of hand-/ham-/hang- substitutions over the last couple of years; it’s probably time for a roundup of links. I think my favorite is “handburger” in this post (you have to scroll down for “handburger” itself): http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … hp?pid=433
I doubt that “handbasket” is a hypercorrection; the “hell in a handbasket” phrase is so common that it seems unlikely most adult native speakers would think “handbasket” isn’t a viable word in the language. Also, I’ve heard this word in use all my life (about as frequently as “handbasket” when people are referring to real baskets with handles), and books.google.com has references going back to at least the very early 20th century. I think it’s more likely a disambiguation. I suspect “handbaskets” almost always have handles, but the word doesn’t make that clear. (Interestingly, the definitions for “handbasket” at both the OED and MWD don’t mention handles. The latter says they’re “small [and] portable,” which doesn’t quite imply handles.) “Handle basket” by contrast erases any doubt about the structure of the thing. And the word shows up a lot on websites for florist shops and nurseries, where they have baskets with handles and without. All of the “handle basket” links I clicked on at such places did indeed show baskets with handles. (For some reason, cyclamens, tea roses and African violets seem to be the most popular plants to display in handle baskets.)
Peter’s comments also led me to one other thought when I looked at the dictionary definitions of “handbasket.” The Merriam Webster site said that the phrase is now “usually” used in the “hell in a handbasket” phrase. That surprised me a bit, but if the MW editors are right, I wonder whether some of the speakers using “handle basket” may be trying—consciously or not—to avoid the off-color associations of the “hell…” phrase.
The Merriam Webster site said that the phrase is now “usually” used in the “hell in a handbasket” phrase. That surprised me a bit, but if the MW editors are right, I wonder whether some of the speakers using “handle basket” may be trying—consciously or not—to avoid the off-color associations of the “hell…” phrase.
It’s interesting that “handbasket” is most often associatiated with the idiom “hell in a handbasket” (cf. 358,000 of the 635,000 Google hits mentioned earlier). I think most of us have absolutely no idea of why the idiom invokes a handbasket! So, I looked into it…
www.word-detective.com/back-e2.html – 15k – Cached – Similar pages
The eminent slang historian Eric Partridge, in his “Dictionary of Catchphrases,” dates the term to the early 1920’s. Christine Ammer, in her “Have A Nice Day—No Problem,” a dictionary of cliches, agrees that the phrase probably dates to the early 20th century, and notes that the alliteration of “hell” and “handbasket” probably contributed to the popularity of the saying. Ms. Ammer goes a bit further and ventures that, since handbaskets are “light and easily conveyed,” the term “means going to hell easily and rapidly.” That seems a bit of a stretch to me, but I do think the addition of “in a handbasket” (or “in a bucket,” as one variant puts it) does sound more dire and hopeless than simply “going to hell.”
It seems to me that whenever the imagery of an idiom is lost on the majority of people, it becomes a prime candidate for eggcorning. I would further suggest that if “handbasket” were to have some shorter word as a homophone or a few similar-sounding words, this transformation to an eggcorn might already have happened. Instead, what we have is a situation where many people hear the word “handbasket” all too clearly—and further view it as completely arbitrary word. Rather than subliminally replacing “handbasket” with a different word (to generate an eggcorn), they are more likely to intentionally replace it with some other arbitrary means of conveyance… ...a bucket, a boat, a handbag, a handle-basket or whatnot.
Last edited by jorkel (2007-06-05 16:00:09)
Sure, I agree—most of this is probably conscious wordplay. I always use the “hell in a handbucket” variant myself. It’s possible the “hell in a handle basket” phrase is, as Jorkel says, a conscious substitution, or it might be a substitution of a near-synonym. In either case, not really an eggcorn.
Just in case: my final speculative remark in the last post was about instances when people are referring to real baskets—not the “hell…” phrase. I was wondering whether “handbasket” has—for some speakers—taken on a bit of the off-color association of the phrase in which it now usually occurs. As a result, they may be avoiding “handbasket” when really referring to baskets. Just a suggestion, and I’m not at all sure I’m convinced by it. For one thing, I’m still surprised by the MW claim that “handbasket” is “usually” used in the “hell” phrase.
My main point in both earlier posts in this thread is simple: when used to refer to real baskets, “handle basket” is a perfectly legitimate word used for disambiguation; it’s neither an eggcorn nor a hypercorrection.
Last edited by patschwieterman (2007-06-05 19:28:13)
Sorry about that, Pat. I headed off on a side tangent there and quoted a bit of your inspiring post to make the segueway (because that tidbit suddenly woke my brain up to the imagery aspect). I probably quoted one line too many from your post, and that might have thrown you a curveball—making you think I missed your other points. I didn’t miss them, though; I just didn’t have anything to add along those lines.
By the way, has anyone else noticed that three more eggcorns have entered the Database in recent days? None of them drawn from the Forum. In fact, no adds from the Forum for at least half a year now.
Last edited by jorkel (2007-06-05 22:58:55)
Yeah, I spotted those new additions yesterday. I’m very glad to see that Chris Waigl’s back and adding to the Database. But I do agree that there’s plenty of native talent here on the Forum that could use some long-overdue recognition.
That said, I love “with flying collars.” Wish I’d thought of it.
interesting discussion here:
>>In Fairford church, Gloucestershire, the great West window (installed before 1517 AD) shows the Day of Judgment in stained glass, with the innocent going to heaven and the guilty going to hell. Among the latter is an old woman in a wheelbarrow, being pushed to her doom by a blue devil. So the idea of “going to hell in a handcart” is a good 500 years old. <<