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#1 2008-07-13 00:25:27

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

Over in the Contributions section, nilep wrote:

By the way, I never understood “lock, stock, and barrel” as a description of a musket. In my mind it described a general store: the lock on the door, the stock on the shelves, and the cracker barrel and other store fixtures.

Is there a name that those on high have accorded this phenomenon? It’s another that eggcorns shade into. A word or phrase does not change in pronunciation, but the imagery is reinterpreted just as in an eggcorn. I find these as fascinating as the eggcorns themselves, and they are particularly likely to fly under the radar permanently and eventually even become standard.

Another one I’d read about is “give someone the cold shoulder”, which apparently originally meant “give leftovers to someone (your guest)”, thus “give a less than warm welcome.” I have often asked people to “do” what they think when they hear the phrase “give the cold shoulder” and they invariably turn their shoulder towards me, often with a frowning “cold” expression on their face. I had understood the phrase that way as well, and of course there is now the phrase “turn the/a cold shoulder to someone”. Anyhow, that would be an example of one of these re-imaging errors which became standard.

“No holds barred” is another I know of people reanalyzing to refer to the hold of a ship, with no covers on the hatches, which allows either (a) junk to be thrown into the hull, or (b) rats or other foul things to come up out of the bilges. (This came out in discussing a wonderful mixed phrase where a woman said “The language people used was appalling, everything from A to Z, and no bars held.” Another said that made perfect sense: people always talk about raising and lowering the bar, and if no bars are held, that would mean no standards at all. )

Anyway, what should these be called?

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-07-13 20:48:47)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#2 2008-07-13 04:07:21

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

Hi David:
Pat and I have had discussions on homophonous eggcorns before. Most recently Pat commented on them here:

· Pain-staking by roonyjwelch 2 84 2008-07-02 09:29:09 by patschwieterman

Pat alluded to the term “demi-eggcorn,” but I’m not sure whether it applies. Nilep has made a half-dozen mentions of that term. (Personally, I don’t like the prefix “demi-” if it isn’t obvious what trait it refers to. Since there are multiple criteria for eggcorns, one might wrongly lump all near misses as “demi-eggcorns” not realizing that the term has a precise definition). At any rate, Nilep included some references for “demi-eggcorn” here:

Here’s a new one by mdforseth Contribute! 2 2008-04-03 07:50:13 by nilep

I independently stumbled upon something akin to homophonous eggcorns which I refer to as “stealth eggcorns.” This category applies to any word that has multiple meanings—and therefore capable of generating multiple images. At least with the descriptor “stealth” one might guess that the shift of imagery is not accompanied by a shift in spelling.

I don’t recall very many examples of these, but one that immediately comes to mind is the idiom “play fast and loose.” The eggcorn imagery comes out of hiding when someone utters something like “play faster and looser.” Read more here:

“Play faster and looser” by jimshlif Contribute! 2 2007-04-03 17:33:54 by booboo

I suppose you could find my other examples by running the Search engine with the keyword “stealth.” I’ll probably continue to refer to any change of imagery that’s not accompanied by a change of spelling as a “stealth eggcorn” until I get a clear sense of the standard term for it.

Last edited by jorkel (2008-07-13 05:03:52)

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#3 2008-07-13 06:44:48

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2030

Re: Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

A demi-eggcorn, according to Zwicky, contains a respelling. A stealth eggcorn, as jorkel uses the term at least, is a switch in meaning without a switch in spelling. So “cold shoulder” would be a stealth eggcorn. As would “lock, stock and barrel” when it images a country store.

One of my favorite stealth eggcorns is “in the offing.” People seem to think “offing” is a way of referring to things that will “come off” soon. There is no entry for “offing” that has this meaning-it’s just a potted meaning, constructed on the fly from the context of the idiom. I doubt that one in twenty people who use the term “offing”-nay, matey, one in a hundred-know the nautical reference behind it.

Nautical idioms are a bountiful source of stealth eggcorns. The technology of sailing is so removed from modern life that we tend to replace unfamiliar nautical meanings with more familiar ones. Other nautical idioms with stealth eggcorns besides “in the offing” might be “cut and run,” “give a wide berth to,” “bitter end,” and “pipe down.” It is probable that these have nothing to do with cuts (meaning sharp turns), berths (meaning sleeping bunks), bitter (meaning an acrid taste), and pipe (meaning talk in a shrill way).

Last edited by kem (2008-07-13 06:46:59)

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#4 2008-07-13 14:05:10

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

OK, stealth eggcorns is a good name. Only I thought it centered on things like pain-staking, which for me actually is pronounced differently from pains-taking. (There is a slight voicing of the s in pains-taking, and definite aspiration of the t: [ˈpejnˌstejkɪŋ] vs. [pejnzsˈtʰakɪŋ].) So I thought the term meant “eggcorns where the pronunciation difference is so slight you could very easily miss it”, not “eggcorns with no pronunciation difference at all”. Like I said, there is no sharp boundary between either of these and more prototypical eggcorns.

Change or non-change of spelling is a rather different issue. What was the thread a while ago about words we’d read for years and analyzed-pronounced wrong? Things like “misled” as past tense of the verb “to misle” (=’deceive’), or “long-lived” pronounced as if derived from the verb “to live” rather than from the noun “life”. (That last one has probably taken over as standard: people look at you funny if you say [ˌlɔŋˈlajvd].) There’s nothing subtle or stealth-like in these mispronunciations though the spelling does not change at all.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#5 2008-07-13 14:45:25

nilep
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-03-21
Posts: 291

Re: Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

I will just second kem’s observation: things like “lock, stock, and barrel”, in which the form has not changed, but the referent/imagery has are stealth eggcorns (Krozel 2007). They are not demi-eggcorns, which Zwicky (2007) defines as “errors in which one or more parts of an expression are re-spelled so as to replace opaque parts by recognizable lexical material, but without any noticeable improvement in the semantics.”

Personally, I don’t take the “re-spelled” component as the essential characteristic of a demi-eggcorn. Rather, it is the lack of changed (improved) semantics.

Thus, as I understand it, a stealth eggcorn changes semantics or imagery without changing form (e.g. fast and loose; lock, stock, and barrel). A demi-eggcorn changes form without producing sensible imagery (e.g. cow-tow << kowtow; the dye is cast).

(But, just to complicate the picture, Zwicky also mentions “hidden eggcorns”, which are a lot like Joe’s stealth eggcorns.)

Krozel, Joe. 2007 “Theory of the Stealth Eggcorn.” http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … hp?id=1649

Zwicky, Arnold. 2007. “Cow-towing to Celsisus.” http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/language … 05026.html

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#6 2008-07-13 14:53:53

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

Why not

“hidden eggcorn” = no pronunciation (or spelling?) difference

“stealth eggcorn” = almost negligible/hard-to-perceive pronunciation (or spelling) difference

?

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-07-13 14:54:37)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#7 2008-07-13 19:31:58

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: Is there a name for homophonous reshapings

Thanks Nilep… I knew I was close to being on the right track, but somehow missed the mark. Zwicky’s term “hidden eggcorn” will probably stick since he is the father of this eggcorn movement in the first place.

No need to split hairs, David. We can just go with “hidden eggcorn.” Although you’re right about the subtle pronunciation difference between “pains taking” and “pain staking” I blew right past it by focussing only on the spelling of “painstaking.” (Besides, I’m sure the linguists at Language Log will coin their own word for those hard-to-perceive differences if the need arises).

At any rate, I find this to be one of the more fascinating aspects of language reshaping: shifts of imagery that go virtually undetected. Think about all the idioms we use today that are based on imagery that is completely outdated; I wonder what fraction morph into “hidden eggcorns” and what fraction beget full-fledged eggcorns.

David’s original comment is right on the mark: Ask people to explain their understanding of some common idioms, and you’ll discover all sorts of new imagery.

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