Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Here’s a fun one, related to kem’s ”(go) haywall” (posted on slips & innovations) and “go hogwire” (also discussed there):
We had the same problem at the Barcelo when a snorkeling trip went hairwire.
Someone a while ago posted a site that has bead size to hook size. Lost it when when the computer went hairwire. Can you send it to me.
The air is hot and dry and my sinuses go hairwire. I think Raymond Chandler wrote that the Santa Anas make people commit murder or at least THINK about …
if the dvd drive is unplugged does it still go bonkers?? If so then you might have a virus but i haven’t heard of a virus that causes the monitor to go hairwire..if not then your wires going to your dvd drive might be out of what
(Out of what = out of whack?? Anyway …)
As kem noted in the discussion, haywire (baling wire for hay bales) is hardly used anymore, and the reference was never a particularly salient one for non-farmers anyway. For such people, what does hay have to do with it, or wire, for that matter?
Haywall fails the imagery test for eggcornhood (you can imagine a haywall, but the analysis doesn’t make any kind of obvious sense), as does hogwire. Both are clearly idiom blends, in any case (and rather beautiful ones at that.)
But hairwire can make sense on several levels.
Fine (hair-sized) wires in an electronic device, like a computer, can get crossed and cause problems. The last example quoted above may have this more strongly than others. A mass of such wires, sprouting from connectors like the hair on a head, may be especially confusing to try to sort out.
Apart from that, the simple substitution of hair for hay moves in the right direction: there is a pervasive association with hair and madness/difficulty/frustration/nervousness. Phrases like a bad hair day, tearing your hair out, sticking straws (wires? hay?) in your hair, a hairy situation, hair-trigger nerves, hair-raising situations, more hair than wit, and so on tie in to this, as does also the association of hair with adjectives like kinky or screwy. So a situation going hairwire sounds like it probably has to do with that semantic area, which fits the meaning quite exactly.
Being “wired” also has the idea of over-nervousness, and may be influencing things here as well.
Hairwire may also be due in some degree to phonological anticipation, the syllable-final r showing up early. (This of course would be non-eggcornish motivation.)
All of these (haywall, hogwire, and hairwire) are beautifully self-referential: things go all screwwire trying to describe things going that way.
(Unfortunately I invented screwwire: I also got 0 ghits with go/went/goes hairwall and hogwall. What was the term for those? googlenopes? gnopes and gnonces if there’s just one?)
I do have “That’s a hairball idea”, “some hairballed scheme”, ”[a difficult task] is getting me hairballed”,—I’d love to find it spelt “hairbald” with that meaning. Blending, here, with oddball, harebrained, hair-brained (?) :-) That last one is probably a hidden/stealth eggcorn—it is certainly standard for a good many. All the associations noted above of hair with craziness fit again.
Last edited by DavidTuggy (2008-08-03 01:56:46)
*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .