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#1 2008-07-25 22:16:11

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2084

Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

I’m willing to give Wikipedia a try. It’s been an age since I was on it. In fact, my old login no longer seems to work. I have registered as “sandofagen.”

I added “sore grapes” as an eggcorn, just to get some practice. I footnoted it to our discussion.

We might try to clean up the examples for a start. Why, for example, are “should of” and “could of” on the list. They are not even eggcorns. Or, if they are, they are not good examples of eggcorns.

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#2 2008-07-26 17:03:43

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

I thought “sore grapes” was an idiom blend of “sore loser” + “sour grapes.” I guess I’d defer to the linguists on Language Log to make some definitive determination since we might not be so well equiped to deal with all the subtleties. I wonder if Zwicky has assembled any sort of list—aside from the database on this site (which clearly needs cleaning up)—he is the one who coined the word after all.

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#3 2008-07-26 17:20:06

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2084

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

“Sore grapes” may be an idiom blend. But it is also an eggcorn. When the words being switched in an idiom blend have a sound similarity, we either admit both categorizations or choose one assignment over the other. I’m inclined to call these two-category expressions eggcorns unless the blended idioms are so in your face that they can’t be missed and the alternate imageries are so far apart that only the sound influence of the idioms could make them substitutions for each other. I can see “sore grapes” popping up in English even if “sore loser” did not exist.

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#4 2008-07-27 01:18:44

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1740
Website

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Should we wrangle out what we’d like the page to say here first, or try to do it piecemeal?


*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 2008-07-27 04:56:15

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2084

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Not sure. Perhaps it would be best to use this thread to come up with an improved opening and a better explanation of what an eggcorn is and how it is related to other language slips. If we could all agree on something, we could move it in as a mass edit and try to use our numbers to make it stick.

An initial thought: We should cite Liberman and Pullum’s role in naming eggcorns but omit Pullum’s definition. It is misleading to say that an eggcorn is never a malapropism without explaining what a malapropism is. And his statement about folk etymologies is confusing (to me, at least).

What about an initial definition, with one or two examples, then a short paragraph on each language slip that an eggcorn has some resemblance to. The paragraph could explain why an eggcorn is and is not like X (mondegreen, snowclone, malapropism, idiom blend, etc.)

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#6 2008-07-27 06:20:28

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Kem wrote

Perhaps it would be best to use this thread to come up with an improved opening and a better explanation of what an eggcorn is and how it is related to other language slips. If we could all agree on something, we could move it in as a mass edit and try to use our numbers to make it stick.

If you try to do a substantial revision to multiple long-standing parts of the article and then post it all at once, you’re asking for a fight—I can pretty much guarantee it. And sheer numbers won’t be useful if you end up in a “reversion war,” where everyone just keeps reverting to their own preferred version. An admin could step in then, and there are plenty of biased admins—they could be biased against you. It’s actually pretty hard to make complicated changes “stick” without compromise and constant vigilance.

I guess I’ve never seen anyone attempt a complete “takeover,” but I’d advise against it. I think the best approach would be to decide what changes you want to make, and then prioritize them. Test the waters with the one most important to you and find out who cares. (I just committed the WTF typo “fight out”—you can see how I think about Wikipedia…). Maybe that’s what Kem is advocating, but go slow. If the first edit is successful, keep on working your way down the list as you gain the trust and support of people with an abiding interest in the article (you’ll be surprised how many there are). Trust and support really are key—Wikipedia is not a rational place where rational arguments carry the day.

You’ll encounter fewer kneejerk challenges if you go in with references at the ready for every change you make. Wikipedians (understandably) tend to distrust blogs and Web forums as references (I think that distrust is actually written into policy—we could check), so the fact that a bunch of thoughtful people at the Eggcorns Forum say so may not pass the mustard. Language Log probably works now, but it didn’t at first during the original deletion challenge—I don’t think people recognized then the stature of the principals on LL. Eggcorn supporters had to cite The New York Times and other authorities citing Language Log in order to get things to stick. But LL will be a valuable resource in this case.

And maybe we could get DT to publish an article on eggcorns at one of those quick-turnaround online linguistics journals and then cite that. Uh, just a thought….

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-07-27 06:33:29)

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#7 2008-07-27 15:59:06

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

FWIW, I’ll relate my experience in substantially re-writing the Wikipedia page on code switching. That page seems to garner less interest than the eggcorn page, so take this with a grain of salt, YMMV, etc.

In January of 2008, I suggested on the Talk page that the article was unsatisfactory, since it did not describe the linguistic theories related to the phenomena. The article at that point was mainly a jumble of anecdotes about places or instances where code switching occurs. I proposed reordering the article to put the examples at the bottom, and to strengthen the pieces on the general theory.

About a week later, I made those changes, and added several references to major publications.

In April, I suggested on the Talk page that the introductory paragraph should be changed to reflect the article’s new scientific orientation.

Soon thereafter, I re-wrote the introduction. In doing so, I recycled as many of the actual words as possible in the existing introduction, re-ordering and supplementing them to make the introduction sound more or less the way I thought it should. At the same time, I was careful not to actually remove ideas that I thought were controversial (and that I disagreed with) but not outside the realm of the academic discussion.

Since then, a couple of people have made substantial additions, reflecting their own favorite theories, but no one has reverted the article to a version before my changes/additions.

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#8 2008-07-28 03:07:24

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1740
Website

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Sounds like a wise way to go at it.

I’ve spent too much time here for a few weeks (though it’s been fun), and for the next will be busy enough that I probably won’t be posting as often. So anything done w Wikipedia or elsewhere I may not be able to participate much in.

btw, I’m Lavintzin on wikipedia, in case I do shove my oar in.


*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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#9 2008-07-28 05:03:46

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Great post, Nilep—virtually a mini handbook on how to avoid trouble when doing major edits on an existing article.

Like DT, I’m hoping to become scarce for a while—as soon as I’ve cleared out the reshapings on my to-do list.

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#10 2008-07-28 16:03:10

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

I have just learned (via the Columbia Journalism Review) that the Merriam Webster’s new Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary will include the word mondegreen as a new entry. CJR used this as a peg to reprint a bunch of errors from the New York Times. I wonder if media mention of mondegreens will drive folks to the Wikipedia pages for mondegreens, malaprops (which CJR also mentions) and eggcorns.

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#11 2008-07-28 18:15:10

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

My advice for the Wikipedia article is to prioritize the effort and start with items that have the most widespread recognition. For instance, there are thousands of examples of people mistaking “bonfire” for “bomb fire.” Virtually everyone can relate to this.

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#12 2008-07-29 18:22:34

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2084

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Would it make sense to clean up the list of examples first? By doing this, we could avoid the criticism “your definition doesn’t fit X.” Also, it involves smaller edits, and it might show us who we are dialoguing with.

If you agree, could you give us a list of the five or so best eggcorns that aren’t already on the list, and also which ones should be removed (though removals might reasonably come later, when we can make the argument “too many examples”).

I realize that we might fail, or that we might be only partially successful. But I don’t think there is any group on the net that has worked on the problem of defining eggcorns as intensely as people in this forum.

One big assumption behind this project is that we can agree in this forum on a reasonable Wikipedia entry. I’m hoping we can, but it will require all of us to differentiate between our own take on the issues and those that we share with others (a piece of advice that I need more than others).

Last edited by kem (2008-07-30 04:11:57)

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#13 2008-07-30 18:40:22

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

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

kem wrote:

Would it make sense to clean up the list of examples first? By doing this, we could avoid the criticism “your definition doesn’t fit X.” Also, it involves smaller edits, and it might show us who we are dialoguing with.

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg (corn) question, isn’t it? Do you work on the examples first, and then fit the definition to prototypical examples, or do you work on the definition first and then select sufficient examples? My natural inclination is do opt for the latter, but I have no strong logical arguments for preferring that order. In fact, kem’s smallest-edit-distance criterion is much better than anything I might suggest.

One big assumption behind this project is that we can agree in this forum on a reasonable Wikipedia entry. I’m hoping we can, but it will require all of us to differentiate between our own take on the issues and those that we share with others (a piece of advice that I need more than others).

I think we can come together on a reasonable piece, if we select widely-accepted examples and prototypical elements of definitions. And I’m a well-known contrarian.

By the way, I think Mark Liberman’s LL approach (it’s not a mondegreen because…, it’s not a malaprop because…), which is reflected in the current Wikipedia definition, is not actually the best way to go for an encyclopedia. It served a purpose for Liberman’s blog entry, but surely there are better ways to explain what eggcorns are for people who have heard the term and are looking for an explanation or definition?

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#14 2008-07-31 17:28:34

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1740
Website

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Haven’t time to think whether or how well this fits in with you all’s, or my own, previous efforts, but here’s another try at a short definition or introductory statement for an encyclopedia article:

An eggcorn (like <link>the usage for which it is named</link>) is a reanalysis of a standard word or phrase in which (a) some part of the standard structure (the “acorn”) is replaced by a different structure with a closely similar sound, (b) the substitution effects a striking change in the semantic imagery (e.g. construing the nut of an acorn as an egg-shaped object), but (c ) the now reanalyzed structure (the “eggcorn”) is still close enough in meaning to the “acorn” that it can be used in most contexts without hindering communication, and will typically pass unnoticed. Furthermore (d) the “eggcorn” is standard for some speaker(s), who are not aware that it differs from the more normal usage.

It could be followed by stuff like this:

These characteristics —(a) substitution, (b) reanalysis with imagery change, (c ) closeness of overall meaning, and (d) inadvertent abnormality—, in combination, distinguish eggcorns from a number of other kinds of errors or similar structures. For instance, puns show substitution and a change of meaning, but often produce very different overall meanings and are clearly purposeful abnormalities, rather than being thought normal. Mondegreens show substitution and a change of imagery, and are often inadvertent, but often differ strikingly in the overall meanings produced. Classic malapropisms are inadvertently abnormal and involve substitution with a concomitant change of imagery, but also differ strikingly in the overall meaning. They also tend to be substitutions (of a whole word or phrase for another) rather than reanalyses. Folk etymologies … Blends …, Double entendres … etc.
.
These are not disjoint categories, however. They grade into each other, and many kinds of in-between cases can be found. Eggcorns can be viewed as a subclass of malapropisms, malapropisms which make sense, and are similar enough in overall meaning to pass unnoticed. Or they can be seen as mondegreens which …

Anyway, it’s another try. Gotta run!

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-07-31 17:35:41)


*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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#15 2008-07-31 20:27:07

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2084

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Your overall approach, David, seems to cover most of the bases and to follow the format of Wikipedia entries. Thanks for getting us started on the entry. The only thing I might add to the flow of the entry-I think I would put it between your initial definition and the paragraph(s) that distinguish eggcorns from other language slips-would be a short paragraph on the history of the word. Who first used it, etc. So the order would be:

I. Definition

II. History

III. Differentiations

IV. Examples

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#16 2008-08-01 01:16:36

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1740
Website

Re: Fixing the Wikipedia entry for Eggcorn

Yes, right placement for the history, from my point of view. The link from early in what I wrote would be to that paragraph. (I didn’t mark other things that should be linked, but of course they are there.)


*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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