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#1 2008-07-18 07:01:53

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Why do eggcorns get laid?

Is it possible that we are witnessing the beginning of a fresh explosion in the evolution of English?

I am not the most literate person around by any means, as forum ‘reggulars’ have kindly and frequently pointed out. I’ve met many extremely literate recent public school graduates. However, because of other professional anecdotal experiences and reports of standardized test scores falling for the last forty years or so, I can’t help but notice an apparent decline in linguistic skill levels for the general population (particularly in the areas of listening and writing). It’s not my purpose here to criticize public education or to belittle the general population; but merely to convey my opinion that there exists a marked decline in general literacy.

But, thanks to this forum, I can now see a shining silver lining in the dark cloud of declining literacy. Just as the printing press gave rise to a decelerated rate of linguistic evolution (but also facilitated increased literacy rates) in the 15th century; the 20th century electronic mass media and the Internet combined with the recent literacy decline may give rise to an accelerated rate of linguistic evolution in the 21st century.

So, I embrace the shining silver eggcorn as an emergent phenomenon embedded in linguistic entropy, even though I’m linguistically challenged and struggle with an old fashioned prescriptivist attitude. Has anybody else been thinking about why eggcorns get laid?

Off topic: ughits( reggulars ) = 18. Hmm…

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#2 2008-07-18 14:14:44

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

I think they’ve probably been laid all along, but (1) more of us are talking and writing in English than ever before, including (2) many for whom English is a second language or who have learned English from non-native speakers. Also very importantly (3) the Internet and search engines let us who are interested find and document the eggcorns much more easily, and (4) the Internet also helps us find each other and share our finds.

Somehow the case of modern-day English itself, even apart from its unprecedentedly widespread use mentioned above, does seem to be somewhat special. (a) The freedom we have to verb nouns and otherwise manhandle the language is extraordinary, and (b) we have a huge stock of lexical items, especially lexicalized phrases, accumulated over centuries but preserved and re-distributed by literacy, so many that we easily just sort-of learn them. These are fertile ground in which little eggcorns can sprout and grow into mighty hoaxes.

These considerations help me understand why I find fewer bloopers of these sorts in Spanish, which I am constantly surrounded with, or Nahuatl (though in that case lesser competence is undoubtedly a factor as well). I know things of this sort get reported for French, German, Dutch and so on, but wonder if they are as common. It’d be hard to quantify, I know.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-07-21 19:00:10)


*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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#3 2008-07-18 15:16:20

TootsNYC
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-06-19
Posts: 263

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

I’m w/ David—people have been “laying” eggcorns for years.

But I think what has changed is that the Internet is both producing more writing being done, via the Internet (e-mails and forums like this) and disseminating more writing (in the form of people’s church brochures, company’s promotional materials, etc., being searchable or findable on the Internet).

We think the advent of the computer and the Internet has interfered w/ reading & writing, but I believe it has INCREASED it. It has also moved it—from appearing on paper (which is hard for someone else to find, and which often gets tossed) to appearing electronically in a form that is easily forwarded or easily searched.

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#4 2008-07-19 07:12:51

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Like DT and TootsNYC, I don’t see the ubiquity of eggcorns as a sign of the decline of literacy. In fact, eggcorning seems always to have been one of the language’s many pathways of lexical innovation. Today the Web allows us to witness the process in action, but it’s pretty likely that people were eggcorning the Middle English word “berfry” (a wooden tower that might or might not hold bells) into “belfry” way back in the 14th century. And stubborn “berfry” users were probably shaking their heads and saying, “Man, this langage is going to the dogges.” Eggcorning and linguistic doomsaying both seem to be built into our native tongue.

I’ve often wondered about DT’s point that other languages don’t seem to produce eggcorns with the frequency of English. I don’t have the level of fluency in another language that I’d need to spot eggcorns there, but I’ve asked non-native-speaker friends about the phenomenon, and they too have generally said that the range of eggcorns on display in the Database is fairly amazing. I wish our founder Chris Waigl—who appears to have native-level fluency in a number of languages—had written more about this; I’d like to hear how she feels English compares to French and German. As DT noted, the interchangeability of many adverbs/adjectives/nouns/verbs in English must have a lot to do with it, but there are probably other factors at work, too.

Finally, I’m not convinced that literacy is in decline, and I’m not sure we could truly measure “literacy” in any case. I think Anglophones in the 15-30 age range are probably writing far more than the people in the generations that immediately preceded them. Everyone is texting and emailing all the time. And people in discussion forums like our own are not only exchanging ideas—they’re also exchanging words, phrases, idioms, and clever ways of expressing things that aren’t always easy to put into writing. We’re all getting a lot more daily practice.

And you can’t swing a dead cat on the internet these days without knocking down someone who’s an active participant in a writing forum. I don’t think it matters whether teenagers are writing Harry Potter fanfic or attempting to emulate Virginia Woolf or Toni Morrison or China Mieville—there’s just a heck of a lot of them posting their fiction on the Web and getting instant feedback from others, and that’s gotta be a good thing. Can we be sure we’re not moving into a new golden age of literacy?

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#5 2008-07-19 17:17:31

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Another factor about English that I didn’t mention is the sheer number of phonemes and phoneme combinations that we squeeze into our syllables. This means there are very many words whose sounds are very close to a number of other words. This is a factor in puns being much easier/more common in English than in, say Spanish. I grew up speaking both, and know some wonderful puns in Spanish, but not nearly as many.

(Any of you heard that when Victor Paz Estensoro was president of Bolivia, the Bolivians started calling him “El Inca”? He was of course very flattered—it would be sort of like calling a Mexican leader “El Azteca” — until someone clued him in that it was because of his apellido [(first) last name]: “El Inca Paz”. Thought you’d appreciate that, Roger! [For non-speakers: “incapaz” = “klutz, doofus”, literally “incapable one”])

For me all the following are English words, each pronounced differently from all the others, changing only the vowel that is between the k and the d. (The list doesn’t include kide and coid, which would be perfectly good English words but which I don’t happen to have meanings for:)

keyed
kid
Kay’d
ked
cad
cod
cud
cawed
code
could
cooed
cued
cowed

And of course the syllable onset could have been g or gr, or gl, or kl or kr or kʷ, or sk or skr or skʷ, and the syllable coda could have t, or rt, or rd, or dz, or rdz, or nd or nt or ….

It’s somewhere between bizarre and ridiculous that a language should allow all of that!

Eggcorns are not puns, but they share with them the need for words or morphemes that sound like the appropriate part of the acorn. English provides those in abundance.

Most of you have probably heard or read some of Anguish Languish, where the rule is that you are never allowed to use the right word. E.g. the “noisier ram” Sinker Sucker Socks Pants begins (more or less):

Sinker sucker socks pants,
Apocryphal awry.
Foreign twinkey blank boards
Begged inner pyre,
Whinney pious orphaned …

You can’t do that in most languages.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-08-21 20:46:05)


*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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#6 2008-07-21 18:15:16

TootsNYC
Eggcornista
Registered: 2007-06-19
Posts: 263

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

I’ve just finished a big Tony Hillerman kick, and he makes mention of the Navajo language’s ability to lend itself easily to puns, which the Navajo speakers greatly enjoy. He says. (I don’t myself know a darn thing about the Navajo language or people.)

But few are probably written, and as we all know, an intentional play on words does NOT qualify for eggcorn status. It qualifies for a big grin, or a wry smile, and some genuine appreciation. But if you did it on purpose, it’s not an eggcorn.

And if the selection from <i>Anguish Languish</i> amused you, check out this:
http://www.qwantz.com/archive/000691.html

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#7 2008-07-22 02:11:37

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Other languages besides English do pile up the phonological distinctions till you can hardly hear them and can easily pun across them. A colleague posted a page on one of the Chinantec languages, http://www.sil.org/mexico/chinanteca/so … am-cso.htm , where you can hear 14 different ways to pronounce the syllable ta . Chinantecs do play around with tone-puns; tone is so important that they can (the men do) talk by only whistling the tones. In this particular town if you are a man and cannot whistle-talk you are subject to a fine. Just imagine what English would be like if we had all these tones on top of the complications mentioned above!

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-07-26 13:00:18)


*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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#8 2008-08-11 18:28:00

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Thank you one and all for your thoughtful replies. After a short get-a-way and lengthy consideration, I can definitely see the need to soften my stance on declining literacy levels. I guess I’m jaded from hanging in the low rent district too long. Actually, I hope to be moving soon. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I’d like to know what you think of the position described in the following link:

http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEno … ews&rpc=69

Please allow me to slightly sharpen my dull point comparing the introduction of the printing press to the Internet. Back when practically all written mass communication was published on paper, an extra layer of polish was provided by copy editors. Does it seem probable that in the past, a relatively small disjoint circle of copy editors, English composition instructors, administrative assistants, secretaries and the like were more privy to eggcorns than the reading public? If this is true, then there are undiscovered eggcorns archived on paper in boxes stacked in warehouses (or worse yet, strewn in landfills) far beyond the reach of Internet search engines.

Toots – I think you make an excellent point about how easy it is to loose track of paper. I just caught myself taking my computer’s fast, cheap and massive filing capabilities for granted (Yep, it’s time to backup that hard drive, again!).

DT – I think the four reasons you listed as to why eggcorns get laid are really good. I would like to suggest a fifth: (5) Unlike print media, the Internet facilitates unedited mass publication on a global scale. The operative word “unedited” meaning “straight from author to reader” without any of the traditional filtering benefit of human copy editors and so on. Where else can subliminally motivated subtle typos in acorns generate such interesting and colorful eggcorns that we all get to contemplate, analyze and appreciate? You’ve likely noticed that I especially appreciate an eggcorn that’s derived via a relatively minor textual perturbation of its acorn. But, I also enjoy eggcorns generated by lexical perturbations as well.

Pat – I agree with all of your well stated points (except possibly texting, respectfully). Here is some personal anecdotal support for your thesis that (if I may liberally paraphrase) English is possibly the most fertile language on earth from which eggcorns can sprout. Like Spanish, the Czech language seems to have only a tiny amount of wiggle room for malapropisms or puns. When initially learning to speak Czech, I resorted to rote phrase memorization. Later, with a little practice, I had no trouble correctly spelling Czech words and sounding out text after I realized that Czech, like Spanish, has only five or six different vowel sounds as compared to English’s relative plethora of vowel sounds, as DT kindly enumerated in his example. When listening to Czech, I payed closer attention to consonant differentiation in order to improve my aural comprehension. I’m guessing that this is also the case for other Slavic languages. Can anyone out there verify that other languages such as Russian or Polish are short on vowels and long on consonants? My Czech friends told me that I spoke with virtually no foreign accent whenever I was drunk on dobri pivo (good beer!). That surprised me because realistically, I don’t consider myself to be very adept at foreign language acquisition. Many aspects of Czech syntax and grammar leave me completely baffled (even verbs can have gender!). At the same time, I can see how syntax and grammar contribute to lexical efficiency but severely limit pun possibilities (Does that make any sense?). It’s kind of hard to explain because, as you pointed out, English syntax is much more flexible. Could English’s wide spread borrowing from other languages be part of the reason for its relatively broad vowel sound spectrum? Like the French, Czechs seem to proudly resist borrowing from other languages.

DT – I got a big laugh out of the “El Inca Paz” pun. It hadn’t occurred to me that puns in Spanish even existed. Soy poco despacio. (I’m a little slow.)

[Afterthought: Pat – Sorry, I neglected to formulate a bottom line to conclude the above collection of my disjointed anecdotal observations about Spanish and Czech. The point I was trying to make is somewhat tenuous and difficult for me to explain, since I’m a struggling novice ‘linguista’. The above observations lead me to believe that English depends much more heavily on vowel sounds than most other languages. As you probably know, all vowel sounds (unlike hard consonant sounds) are confined to the lower frequency bands in the acoustic spectrum. Also, vowel sounds propagate through the air in the form of acoustic pressure waves that have lower relative kinetic energy than most consonant sounds. So, vowel sounds just don’t propagate through the air as forcefully and as far as most consonant sounds in most acoustic environments. Since the physical transmission of vowel sounds is apparently less reliable than consonants, spoken English is more prone to subtle reception errors than other languages (like Spanish and Czech). It seems to me that an English listener’s subliminal dot connector has to work overtime glossing over occasional gaps in an attempt to minimize cognitive dissonance. So, without even considering the the neural physiology of the human ear, spoken English acoustically lends itself to unintentional subtle misinterpretations, thus increasing the potential for malapropisms to spring forth into the listener’s manifest consciousness.]

Last edited by rogerthat (2008-08-14 14:38:22)

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#9 2008-08-11 20:55:39

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Your point (5) is right on, Roger. It’s the same sort of thing Toots was saying in the post right after my list.

I remember an excellent address by a Swedish linguist in Stockholm (ICLA VI, 1999—was it Erling Wande?) on how to read the runes, where he talked about how technology has repeatedly changed what writing is, culturally and practically. When it was runes they were either sticks chucked on the ground for divination, as ephemeral as notes passed in school, or royal boasts and records carved in stone, hence very durable, non-portable, not available to the masses, etc. With the advent of Christian missionaries with the vellum-and-ink technology, written language was portable, durable, used for documents held to be of great worth, available only to the wealthy, etc. Papyrus evolving towards paper made it a little more affordable (and a little less durable); the printing press made it much more affordable per copy, but necessitated the founding of publishing organizations to bear the high up-front costs, and they hired editors to make their products worth the investment. Libraries had to be established to get large amounts together, and access to them was of course limited in several ways—if nothing else you had to be in the right place. Anyway, he said the next revolution was underway—email and the Internet. Written language is now extremely cheap and easy to produce and publish humongously widely. It is almost as ephemeral as speech, and treated as cheaply, yet easily copied and archived by those who have no obvious connection with the communication intended by the author. As you mentioned, Roger, editing is not a high priority for such writing. Texting and so on are further developments, and for me there is no question but that there has been a very big boost in practical literacy as a result of the whole thing. Teenagers today seem to be writing a whole lot more than I did at their age, and I have always been a highly literate person (as we all are on this forum, I expect.) I wonder if speech-recognition technology will catch up (I’m doubtful) or bandwidth expand to where speaking takes the place of writing online. But anyway, for the nonce, we are experiencing a great increase in writing directly due to the electronic media available for communication.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-08-11 21:08:06)


*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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#10 2008-08-11 21:03:40

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Another wonderful Spanish pun, since you enjoyed the last one, Roger:

President José Prado (I believe it was) of Perú was known as a bit of a dandy, as well as for his quick wit. He was at a gala party, dressed in a tuxedo (known as a “smoking” here in Mexico, as a “frac” = “frock (coat)” in much of S.A. Why do they need English words for it?) when the “golpe de estado” (coup d’etat) came. So he did what any normal president does in that circumstance: went to the airport and got on a plane for Miami. Arriving at the airport, he saw an old friend, who came up to him threw his arms around him, and said, “Ay, mi viejo amigo, ¡Qué fracaso!” (Oy, my old friend, what a fracas/terrible thing to happen!)

To which Prado, looking a bit self-consciously at his sleeves, replied, “Sí, es de sastre nacional.”

(A frac-azo could be a heck of a tuxedo, and Prado’s comment can mean “it’s a national disaster” or “it was made by a national (Peruvian) tailor.”)

I’ve been told by a lady who should know (she knew the man personally) that it really happened just that way.

(Checking—if it was José Prado (y Barreda), the airplane sounds fishy—he was ousted in 1919. It was someone else who told me the story was about Prado. More probably it was Manuel Prado Ugarteche.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-08-11 21:35:25)


*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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#11 2008-08-14 14:56:16

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

David – (<:

Pat – Please see delayed conclusion added above in #8. The reason I’m a little skeptical about texting is that it is usually so heavily ‘abrevi8d’, IMHO.

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#12 2008-08-14 15:44:22

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Roger wrote:

[…] The above observations lead me to believe that English depends much more heavily on vowel sounds than most other languages. As you probably know, all vowel sounds (unlike hard consonant sounds) are confined to the lower frequency bands in the acoustic spectrum. Also, vowel sounds propagate through the air in the form of acoustic pressure waves that have lower relative kinetic energy than most consonant sounds. So, vowel sounds just don’t propagate through the air as forcefully and as far as most consonant sounds in most acoustic environments. Since the physical transmission of vowel sounds is apparently less reliable than consonants, spoken English is more prone to subtle reception errors than other languages (like Spanish and Czech). […]

Huh?? Quite the contrary: the standard received wisdom about (almost the definition of) consonants is that they are less easy to hear than vowels (have lower acoustic energy, what have you.) Certain stops (like p, t, k) cannot be heard at all except when they are tacked onto a vowel (or a voiceless h sound or something like that.) If you just sit silently with your mouth closed you are pronouncing a p; you can do it all day and no one will ever know it.

A restricted class of consonants, the sibilants, are indeed very audible, because they produce air turbulence which gives a lot of high-frequency noise (which is why you might lisp when you want to murmur almost inaudibly to someone). But apart from the sibilants, it’s generally it’s the vowels that we hear, and deduce the consonants from what happens at the ends of the vocalic sounds (which way the tails of the formants head, whether there is no sound at the syllable minimum or only a little, etc.)

What makes vowels hard isn’t hearing them, but hearing distinctions among them. They grade into each other articulatorily and acoustically, and the more of them you try to crowd into the limited “vowel space” defined by what shapes you can make your mouth into, the harder it will be to distinguish them. The space is defined by the three cardinal vowels: a (= aah) ‘mouth wide open, tongue down’; i (= ee) ‘mouth nearly closed, tongue front’ and u (= oo) ‘mouth nearly closed, tongue back (and lips rounded)’ English fits its fifteen or so vowel sounds into this space; Spanish only has 5, and speakers can more easily keep them separate from each other.

So the problem isn’t hearing the vowel sounds of e.g. kook vs. cook; it’s hearing the subtle difference between them (and maintaining the subtle muscular control to pronounce them consistently so as to achieve that subtle acoustic difference.).


*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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#13 2008-08-14 17:51:30

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

David – Thanks for shining your light on my misconceptions. Your patient tutelage is paying me dividends because I am one of those odd balls that learns best by some strange method of successive approximations (as you have probably already noticed). The vivid imagery that you created by describing the “limited vowel space” and the sibilants helped me a lot. So, now I think I understand where I went astray and can correct ‘coarse’. Would it be fair to say that I reached the right conclusion for the wrong reasons? That is, does English’s heavier dependence on subtle vowel sound variants ultimately set the stage for malapropisms? I think the answer is yes, but I’m still not completely certain.

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#14 2008-08-14 19:01:13

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Roger wrote

The reason I’m a little skeptical about texting is that it is usually so heavily ‘abrevi8d’, IMHO.

My inclusion of text messaging was admittedly polemical. When usage blogs start talking about the supposed declining literacy of today’s youth, a mention of TM as a major cause usu. isn’t far behind. But I don’t buy it.

Part of the argument seems to be that people will pick up bad habits that they can’t break. But as a college teacher, I don’t see that. I don’t believe I’ve ever noticed an error in a student paper that seemed related to habits learned TMing. My students are sitting there TMing as they’re waiting for class to begin, and I assume their messages are full of the usual TM stuff. But they instinctively understand the concept of register, and none of that stuff makes it past their filters to me—no one ever writes that they’ll add the bibliography “l8r.” Of course, one could object that I’m only dealing with college students, but the important thing for me is that non-college-bound kids today are spending a lot of time with personal communication in a written medium—that wasn’t true in my youth.

TMing has its own protocols. Some people are better at it than others. And there must be social incentives for being a better communicator by TM, for being funnier in TM, for learning how to sound cooler with TM. Kids learn lessons in becoming better at the form, and I’d be very surprised if some of those lessons weren’t translatable to more formal registers.

Finally, people say that today’s kids make lots of errors in writing, but collections of letters by famous authors of yesteryear are often eye-opening. If the editor has avoided intervention to alter spellings, etc., you sometimes realize just how much credit unsung fiction editors deserve—misspellings and oddities can be all over the place for some writers.

Today, we just get to see a lot of unedited prose. Not a source of real concern—in fact, the sheer volume is a good thing, I think. (Though I admit I worry that spellchecking does sometimes substitute for real proofreading, but students weren’t good proofreaders when papers were typed, either.) I’m a pestimist in most things, but when it comes to literacy in modern society, I’m atypically an optimist. The important thing for me is that people learn to become better at employing whatever written format they choose, and I think a lot of modern developments are simultaneously making it easier for people to do that and encouraging people to do that.

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#15 2008-08-14 22:23:04

rogerthat
Eggcornista
From: Denver, Colorado, USA
Registered: 2008-05-19
Posts: 64

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

Pat – thank you for your clarification. Your optimism is so contagious that I concede all of your points, especially about TMing. My remarks about TMing were somewhat tongue in cheek because TMing seems like a generational thing to me. I’m totally amazed that people actually pay extra fees for text messaging because voice traffic consumes literally a million times more network bandwidth capacity than TM data packets with the same information density. I think the providers should actually pay the users a refund every time they use TM services!

If TMing with your thumbs seems awkward, can you imagine what Morse code is like? As a geek teenager, I was a ham radio operator and we had special short-hand codes for just about everything we needed to say, starting with “CQ” for “seek you.” I still don’t have a mobile phone and I’m too scattered in my old age to even consider using IM.

Anyway, I agree with your point that written communication is written communication. I don’t consider register swapping a problem because my professional duties included performing audience analysis on technical documentation (attempting to remove the ‘F’ from ‘RTFM’). Back to the early days of SMTP with a 300 baud modem, I had no clue that e-mail would force me to improve my personal communication and writing skills, but it has and I guess I should be more cognizant of the social benfits. I think most folks already have enough teeth marks in their behind from careless spellchecking that it is no longer a major problem (especially with new improved grammar checkers).

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this forum has had a positive impact on my tired writing skills; possibly more than I realize. So please, don’t take me too seriously because I clearly need to improve and I’m having way too much fun!

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#16 2008-08-14 23:36:28

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

rogerthat wrote:

<snip> Would it be fair to say that I reached the right conclusion for the wrong reasons? That is, does English’s heavier dependence on subtle vowel sound variants ultimately set the stage for malapropisms? I think the answer is yes, but I’m still not completely certain.

Yes. But I think the same is true of the subtle consonantal differences.

btw one thing I thought might have been confusing is the idea that higher frequencies are more audible. It ain’t necessarily so. It’s amplitude more than frequency that governs loudness, though we aren’t equally sensitive to sounds over the whole range of frequencies (pitches) we can hear. Really high (frequency) sounds we can’t even hear (like a dog whistle.) Really low frequency sounds we may feel more than hear.

An interesting thing: the fundamental tone of a high female voice can be pitched higher than some of the formants we need to distinguish vowels. That’s why even when a coloratura soprano enunciates exaggeratedly, her vowels sound all the same, whereas with a bass you can distinguish the vowels very clearly and easily.


*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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#17 2008-08-14 23:40:49

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1751
Website

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

patschwieterman wrote:

<snip>
Finally, people say that today’s kids make lots of errors in writing, but collections of letters by famous authors of yesteryear are often eye-opening. If the editor has avoided intervention to alter spellings, etc., you sometimes realize just how much credit unsung fiction editors deserve—misspellings and oddities can be all over the place for some writers.

One of my absolute favorites came from a letter from C.S. Lewis (in his teens) to his friend Arthur Greeves. Lewis was usually near impeccable in his use of English even at that age, and of course he became known as a “middle-aged moralist” (to quote himself), which makes it even funnier:

[I am becoming more aware of my responsibility of] baring myself lovingly towards my neighbors

(Unfortunately I don’t have the book to give the full context. I did note that it’s on p. 368.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-08-14 23:42:23)


*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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#18 2008-08-15 14:58:26

JonW719
Eggcornista
From: Colorado
Registered: 2007-09-05
Posts: 285

Re: Why do eggcorns get laid?

DavidTuggy wrote:

An interesting thing: the fundamental tone of a high female voice can be pitched higher than some of the formants we need to distinguish vowels. That’s why even when a coloratura soprano enunciates exaggeratedly, her vowels sound all the same, whereas with a bass you can distinguish the vowels very clearly and easily.

David: Fascinating! I never knew that, and I even studied voice for a time. Thanks for solving that mystery for me!


Feeling quite combobulated.

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