Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
A curb is originally a device placed on an unruly horse to control it, and since the 18th century the metaphor “to curb your appetite” has been used to mean “control your appetite.”
But last night my wife found an ad in a Blue Diamond snack ad for low-salt sugared nuts that said “Helps to Curve Your Hunger.” I thought it might be a deliberate pun, since the containers have a distinctively curvy shape suggesting a vaguely Mae West-type figure.
I decided to try Google for “curve your hunger,” and found under 300 instances, which didn’t seem like much.
“Simple Healthy Treats That Will Curve Your Hunger”
The Healthy Tips Site
http://www.vitalhealthsecrets.com/healt … treats.php
(Note that the model pictured having curved her hunger is notably less curvy than she might otherwise be and that one result of curving your hunger might be to produce a flat stomach!)
But then I tried “curve your appetite” and got over 7,000 hits.
“Dring a glass of water or tea before a meal. This will help you curve your appetite and cause you to eat less.”
“What Are Some Ways To Curve Your Appetite Without Using Diet Pills?”
http://www.healhtydiet.info/knowledgeba … pills.html
This page tells you how to “curve food cravings”:
http://stanford.wellsphere.com/wellmix3 … d-cravings
Google says the page for Barley John’s Brew Pub at http://www.barleyjohns.com/appetite.html had “curve your appetite along with “quench your thirst” on it; but it looks like the page has been corrected since Google last checked in with it.
Are these folks thinking of a mathematical curve, lowering the level of craving for fattening foods? Or just yanking the appetite around from its beeline toward consumption, making it curve around and away from temptation?
“Curb” is a legacy word-one of those English words that only see widespread use in the context of a specific idiom. These are often good candidates for eggcorning.
See the early discussion of curb/curve at http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/viewtopic.php?id=641
Curiously, “curb” may derive from “curve.” But I don’t think anyone would argue that an awareness of the curb/curve equality has lingered in speech backwaters.
300 ghits is good enough for me! To the extent that the Google-search is a kind of existence-proof, it doesn’t take many hits at all. But to be sure one wants hits that represent something other than a joke, a one-off mistake that could well be a typo, or a spell-checker correction or something, so it’s reassuring to find a couple of dozen. If you want evidence that it’s standard for at least someone, the best evidence (short of finding a perpetrator and inducing him or her to confess) is repeated usage by the same author.
I had also collected
REPORTED THAT HE WAS SEEING A COUNSELOR ONCE A MONTH OR WHENEVER AND THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH TO CURVE HISs
I suspect that the eggcorning or whatever is related to a re-analysis of the noun “curb”/”kerb” as a variant of “curve”, perhaps something at the side of the road that, if all goes well, will curve a wandering car back towards the roadway.
as the car roars forward, across the cul-de-sac, over the curve, onto the lawn between Kris’s and Trucker John’s homes…
I’ve drove over the curve onto a park bench…. oh well. And other crazy stuff that I prob. don’t want to remember. Good night. ...
The operator of the white vehicle drove over the curve and turned right onto Elmore Street. The officer then turned onto Elmore Street and observed the tail …
www.bpdnews.com/2007/09/daily_incidents … y_s_2.html – 12k –
To me the imagery shift is from something that stops forward motion (like a curb bit on a horse) to something that deflects or redirects the motion in a desired direction. A curb/kerb can be seen as an instrument for doing either of these.
(btw a curb bit differs physically from a regular bit by having a curve in the portion that is in the horse’s mouth, and sure enough, it shows up on the Internet as a “curve bit”.)
Again, eggcorn or (non-eggcornish) malaprop? Depends on your definitions.
btw, I presume you’re the Paul Brians of the Common Errors in English webpage? Delighted to make your acquaintance. I, and I suspect a number of others posting here, have enjoyed your pages for many years.
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .
To me, curve you appetite suggests not turning back at the curb (kerb) but returning / turning away / being deflected from some course. For example, if excessive appetite is a problem, the solution is to turn away from food, curving one’s metaphorical path.
I don’t think road-side curbs come into it. In fact, it is the replacement of curb with curve that makes this a possible eggcorn.
Yes, I’m Paul Brians of “Common Errors in English.”
Since you bring it up, a new edition of the book based on the site, Common Errors in English Usage (William, James & Co.), is just about to go to press. Lots of new cartoons reprinted from the daily calendars we’ve been putting out for three years will be added to this edition.
I just retired after 40 years in the Department of English at Washington State University and am enjoying life with my wife on beautiful Bainbridge Island, still keeping up the “Common Errors” site. It just passed the 10 million visitor mark last week.
Last edited by brians (2008-07-24 15:17:52)