Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I’m really struggling to determine whether words with close sound and meaning might be considered eggcorns. Let me start with a few examples…
An incisive remark
An insightful remark
Expound on a topic
Expand on a topic
Is weary of
Is wary of
The poster jrk also pointed this one out:
Under the pretense of
Under the pretext of
Sometimes the meaning is close enough to use both words side-by-side in the same sentence…
Oxford University Press: Love and Power: Michael J. Perry”Perry’s elegantly and eloquently written book should be essential reading for all who believe in human rights. He makes a compelling argument that a …
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Weary and wary of spyware – Industry sectors – Times OnlineUnsurprisingly, running an online business involves being online for most of the day. One of the cons.
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HD streams to DivX (*.ts -
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The central question, I believe, is whether one word gained greater usage in a certain context because of the other word. And if so, does that qualify it as an eggcorn if one isn’t being all that careful in their word selection? I guess what I’m asking is whether eggcorns are strictly born of new imagery. Or, would it constitute an eggcorn if one is drawn to a less precise word because it sounds like another?
Last edited by jorkel (2006-09-17 03:05:01)
People use “weary of” when they clearly intend to write or say “wary of” all the time.
Another one for my list:
When in doubt, use them both:
Remarks at the Closing Lunch of APRU 9th Annual Presidents …The last few days have been hectic and our minds and bodies have been given rigorous and vigorous workouts. This afternoon, let us feed our bodies and enjoy …
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Could one be considered an eggcorn of the other? Who knows?
I’d say these are bad candidates for eggcorns. In most, the original is hardly an idiom, and the propounded “eggcorn” is both widely used, makes just as much sense as the original, and probably is intended to mean exactly what its dictionary definition would say it means. I might make an exception for “speaking elegantly,” which strikes me as a phrase used by someone who has heard of speaking “eloquently” and just can’t manage to remember the term. But even still, it’s hardly incorrect to talk about someone’s “elegant” manner of speech.
And the “weary of” / “wary of” thing is just a mistake, in my opinion. I don’t suppose it’s an eggcorn every time somebody misuses a word because it sounds like another.
Last edited by tannerpittman (2007-04-11 13:35:57)
It’s a bit of a gray area I was exploring with that post. It basically asks the question: “If your word choice is not entirely directed by precise meaning but by the way the words sound—including the influence of sound-alike words—then what else could it be than a malapropism or an eggcorn?” Sure, I guess we could invent a new category for those situations where one’s mind offers up suggestions that sound like other words.
Even so, your point about the original usage being idiomatic is probably a nice stipulation which really hasn’t been articulated before. I would use the broader term in-the-language to encompass not only idioms but also word constructions which have become almost standardized.
I would also point out that many eggcorns really aren’t incorrect grammatically. The words (or fragments thereof) convey their exact meaning, and the usage portrays a consistent imagery. The only thing that is out-of-the-ordinary is the fact they were begotten from some other idiomatic (in-the-language) usage: one having a different imagery.
I guess the real debate needs to be about what is an in-the-language usage and what is not. If we can all agree upon what is a common phrase, then all departures need to be examined at some level.
Last edited by jorkel (2007-04-11 14:35:04)
I think some of the examples are easier to prove than others. Being weary of vs. being wary of are two complete different meanings. If someone, in the context of a statement, is trying to convey suspicion or fear of someone and uses the term “weary”, they have clearly used the wrong word. User motivation in some of the other examples would be very hard to distinquish, even with context. The weary/wary example, I think, is very close in dynamic to my post about the continuous/contiguous example. Though the meanings may sometimes match, context will often prove that the speaker clearly meant the original. “Not being careful of their word selection”, I think, does not explain the reason behind the word choice in these cases. It seems self-evident that some user at some time had heard the correct phrase but did not catch the specific word. His continued wrong usage may then, in turn, have introduced others to the eggcorn.
Good points, all.
I would just note that, whereas “for all intensive purposes” isn’t incorrect gramatically, “to speak elegantly” isn’t i”ncorrect” at alll: well-read people could say it all the time.
But I totally get what you’re saying and think it’s an interesting point you make.
I think the linguists might now refer to these word pairs as “flounders”
Last edited by jorkel (2007-09-23 11:41:10)
I wonder if we could add churlish/childish to the list. The usages seem very familiar; Both convey the sense “difficult to deal with.”
I would venture to guess that if one recited a paragraph containing the word “churlish” and asked someone to paraphrase it, he might substitute the word “childish” with little or no loss in meaning.