Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I HEARD this on a radio talk show about ten years ago. The speaker sounded to be a girl in the middle teen-age years (15 or 16, I’d guess).
She was bemoaning her foolishness in having done something or other – I don’t remember what. She said: “I’m an utter incomplete fool. I mean – I’m not even a complete fool.”
Two things are nice about this eggcorn. First, the semantic motivation is very strong because of the existence of both of the collocations “complete fool” (which is pretty idiomatic if you think about it) and the target, “utter and complete fool.” If there didn’t exist a “complete fool” idiom, it’s doubtful that the speaker would have come up with “incomplete fool.” The second interesting thing is that since this eggcorn was spoken, rather than written, the only way the hearer could tell that the speaker had misparsed the idiom “utter and complete fool” was because she revealed it by the next thing she said. I suspect spoken eggcorns may be quite rare.
My curiosity was piquesed by this one. I have never heard the expression ‘utter and complete fool’ but have often heard ‘complete and utter fool’.
Of course the latter does not lead us to ‘incomplete fool’. I wonder if this is another regional or international variation utter and complete vs. complete and utter.
BTW I’ve often heard ‘complete and utter waste of time’ and ‘complete and utter disaster’, with the ‘complete and utter’ grouping always being in that order