Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Heard on Tuesday in Hexham, Northumberland:
“Oooh, Hexham on a Tuesday – it’s a thieves’ mega.”
The speaker was an elderly woman from a rural market town in the north of England, so I doubt Mecca has ever had much of a chance to figure in her life, but this really struck me as a deeply odd turn of phrase. Also, as a Language Log addict, I immediately thought, “EGGCORN!”
This incident also brought up a related (but non-eggcornical) issue of style: when using this sort of phrase, how should Mecca be capitalised: “It’s a thieves’ Mecca” or “It’s a thieves’ mecca”? Obviously, you’re not referring to Mecca; you’re merely drawing a comparison, so it doesn’t feel right to me to capitalise the word.
And that’s without opening up a whole can of worms regarding Mecca/Meccah/Makkah.
Welcome to the forum, OwainB. It’s possible this is eggcornish. But there’d have to be some indication that the usual sense of “mega-” had a role here. I couldn’t find any other clear examples online.
The capitalization question is an interesting one, and I wonder whether it’s even possible to get a definitive answer. I first checked the OED—they had 9 entries between 1843 and 1993 for figurative uses of “Mecca”; only two of those cites used the lowercase spelling. Then I tried googling “tourist Mecca.” The results were split—“tourist mecca” was clearly ahead, but “tourist Mecca” seemed to have about 30-40% when the phrase was actually used in a sentence (as opposed to a headline, etc.). Then I went to books.google.com to see what forms editors of books were letting get into print. I predicted to myself that “tourist Mecca” would be more popular among professional editors than among the general public, but I was wrong—“tourist Mecca” was running a bit less than 20% in books published between 1980 and 2006. So from what I can tell, “tourist mecca” appears to be the choice of the pros right now.
Maybe our resident professional editor—TootsNYC—will weigh in on this.
Thanks for the welcome.
I’d kind of imagined an implied ending to the phrase – at least in the mind of the person using it:
“It’s a thieves’ mega-(opportunity)”
“It’s a thieves’ mega-(mall)”
“It’s a thieves’ mega-(centre)”
or something along those lines.
She could also have confused it with the use of the word “Mega!”, as a stand-alone adjective or interjection (like “Cool!” or “Super!”), which was reasonably popular among Britain’s kids maybe 20 years ago. Indeed, I remember using “Mega” in that sense in the late 80s.
I can’t find any web examples either.
Thanks for the figures on the capitalisation issue. I’m always interested in little quirks of style like that.
Edit: Sorry. I forgot to finish making any sort of point about “mega” as a stand-alone word. My baby puked all over himself, and by the time I got back to finish off the post, I kind of lost track of what I was writing.
So, to finish off on “mega”, I was kind of imagining that she (the person who uttered this phrase) had at some point heard something like:
“It’s a mecca for birdwatchers.”
“It’s a ‘Mega’ for birdwatchers.”
i.e. It’s a place that makes birdwatchers think, “Mega!”
It’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but I’m basically trying to recreate someone else’s thought processes. Quite frankly, I have enough trouble with my own!
Last edited by OwainB (2007-08-30 19:38:53)
I think this one is great. I found about a dozen hits without any unpleasant bending.
I’m sure you can find plenty of info on Chiang Mai because it’s a Mega for expat and travelers.
https://www.facebook.com/TheQFamilyAdve … 5394605201
There was Mc Donald’s, Burger King, Hard rock Cafe, Pizza Hut… Simply said it’s a mega for TOURISTS
“Sadly, This local find has become a tourist mega.”
You get to see the darker, seedier side of a tourist mega, set in the post-outbreak world.