Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
It’s that d/t business again, but is it an eggcorn? I think it might be- after all, you can gradually decrease the size of some things (like urinal cakes) by peeing on them. About 800 ghits:
He didn’t widdle away at it, like how the Last War was fought, he went to the center of power.
They said (and I’m paraphrasing here) they would widdle away at the edges of a woman’s right to choose, one state at a time …
They were able to widdle away at Berkeley’s lead and eventually cut it to 33-29, with under three minutes to play in the third quarter …
Book three is inching towards completion, while I widdle away at two side projects.
I’m a 19 year old sophmore here at Sac State, and just trying to widdle away at my GE requirements…
Southern defensive tactics have vast areas to widdle away at Union armies, which would have long tenuous lines of communication and supply. ...
www.militaryhistoryonline.com/forums/Vi … 18&ID=5232
You’re taking the micturation …
“Urinal cakes”! So that’s what they’re called. That’s got to be one of the most infelicitous collocations in the language.
from www.wordwebonline.com (an online dictionary):
widdle [Brit. , vulgar] Informal term for urination.
(I don’t know how British it is. I grew up in NYC, and I heard it as a kid)
In BrEnglish whittle and widdle aren’t pronounced in the same way so there are no similar grounds for any leakage between the two. I suspect that ‘widdle’ is a term that might be used with children, as it’s somehow less impolite than ‘piddle’ (“piddle away at” yields 186 ghits) which in turn is less impolite than ‘pittle’, the preferred expression in my locality as a child. And oddly enough both have similar diminutive forms, “wee” and “pee”.
I’ve heard “widdle” out here in California, but not frequently. Like Peter, I have the impression it’s generally only used with very small children.
Just had “widdle away” reported to me. Re “pee/wee”, there’s also “peenie/weenie” which may be eggcornishly “wienie”. (I know it is understood to mean “wiener” by some, but that may be a somewhat independent metaphorical formation?)
Ken and Pat are almost certainly right, I think, that baby-talk about such matters is bound to be involved in the fact that this p/w alternation shows up so often in this particular semantic neighborhood. The forms all are at the opposite end of the scale from dignified registers of speech.
In any case, the simple disappearance of the wh/w distinction in many people’s speech and the neutralization of t/d in the flapping environments (for me and many others there’s effectively no difference between latter and ladder , for instance or grading and grating ) is enough to account for “widdle away at” with no eggcorning necessarily happening. (Many have probably forgotten or never learned about whittling either, so for them it’s just an opaque idiom.)
Last edited by DavidTuggy (2013-02-06 23:24:06)
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .