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#1 2008-11-18 18:18:56

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

asteroid << asterisk

In a postscript to a NYT op-ed piece by Dick Cavett (http://cavett.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11 … f-wasilla/) we read:

A friend of mine has made you laugh greatly over the years. David Lloyd is a comic genius…. As a language fan, he has preserved many gems for posterity in his prodigious memory bank. Here comes my favorite: A Navy lecturer was talking about some directives on the blackboard that he said to do something about, “except for these here ones with the asteroids in back of.”

Asteroids for asterisks? Makes sense. “Asterisk” comes from a Greek word for “little star” and an asteroid is another heavenly body. The typographical symbol could reasonably be interpreted as a depiction of a warty space rock (Certainly a better way of looking at the symbol that what computer types used in the 1980s. We called the symbol a “squish,” presumably with reference to flattened bugs).

As a founder eggcorn, one that seems to thrive outside tight idiomatic contexts, the asteroid/asterisk substitution is hard to track down. I was able to find five additional examples on the web. I’m sure there are many more. Interestingly, the last three of the five come from sources with East Asian influences.

In an official UNESCO document: “The applications received after 5 May 2006, are marked with an asteroid (*) in the attached application list”.(http://www.unesco.org/mab/icc/bureau/2006/E_MYS.pdf)

Another data form: “Take care of the items marked with asteroids(*).” (http://www.aire.org.cn/AIRE-Manual/node3.html)

On a web form for collection data: “Items marked with an asteroid are required” (http://www.chinasmartsourcing.com/initial_inquiry.htm)

From a 2008 Ph.D. Thesis in biochemistry: “Three putative clones (48, 78, and 102) were identified (marked with asteroids in D). ” (https://dspace.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/18 … g_2008.pdf)

Another thesis, this time an Australian D.Ed : “Participants from the non-research class are marked with asteroids(*)” (http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/digitalthese … 2whole.pdf)

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#2 2008-11-18 18:27:35

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

I always thought it was Asteriks?

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#3 2008-11-18 19:17:38

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

You should have aksed someone, TootsNYC.

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#4 2008-11-18 21:11:26

Craig C Clarke
Eggcornista
Registered: 2005-11-19
Posts: 232
Website

Re: asteroid << asterisk

Well, since asteroid means “star-like,” then it follows that asterisks are indeed asteroid.

I’ve always thought it funny how some have apparently gotten the idea that the oid in asteroid means diminutive or something of the sort. So CNN has “factoids,” which they think of as small factual bits of info… I prefer to think of them as “fact-like.” Having the appearance of fact but being something else altogether.

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#5 2008-11-19 03:48:40

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

Re factoids—usage guru and forum member Paul Brians is on the case. Here’s the entry for “factoid” over on his Common Errors in English website:

The “-oid” ending in English is normally added to a word to indicate that an item is not the real thing. A humanoid is not quite human. Originally “factoid” was an ironic term indicating that the “fact” being offered was not actually factual. However, CNN and other sources have taken to treating the “-oid” as if it were a mere diminutive, and using the term to mean “trivial but true fact.” As a result, the definition of “factoid” is hopelessly confused and it’s probably better to avoid using the term altogether.
http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/factoid.html

The Wikipedia “factoid” page claims Norman Mailer coined the term (in Craig’s meaning) in 1973: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factoid

Usage factoid: Paul Brians feels that “website” is a common error for “Web site.”

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-11-19 03:49:13)

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#6 2008-11-20 06:00:01

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 577

Re: asteroid << asterisk

TootsNYC wrote:

I always thought it was Asteriks?

It probably is, in Ebonics.

Dixon

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#7 2008-11-25 01:57:34

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

Actually, most people I know, regardless of background, seem to say “asterix.” I think the isks sound is just a difficult or awkward one to pronounce.


Feeling quite combobulated.

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#8 2008-11-25 02:01:57

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 577

Re: asteroid << asterisk

JonW719 wrote:

Actually, most people I know, regardless of background, seem to say “asterix.” I think the isks sound is just a difficult or awkward one to pronounce.

I suppose it’s possible that a few people are confused by having read, or at least seen, the adventures of the famous French comics character Asterix, which have been translated into English among other languages.

Diskon

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#9 2008-11-27 00:21:47

Craig C Clarke
Eggcornista
Registered: 2005-11-19
Posts: 232
Website

Re: asteroid << asterisk

to me, asterisk is easier to say than asteriks… asteriks has a harder stop to it. Possibly part of that is due to muscle memory though, depending on the accent you grew up with.

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#10 2008-11-28 02:20:37

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

This reminds me of the grade-school joke about an ointment that shrinks painful asteroids. Googling confirms that my brain isn’t the only one that’s held onto that puerile tidbit.

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#11 2008-11-28 03:34:39

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

JonW719 wrote:

Actually, most people I know, regardless of background, seem to say “asterix.” I think the isks sound is just a difficult or awkward one to pronounce.

Well, are they mispronouncing asterisks or asterisk or both? Is isk as hard to pronounce, in your estimation? Does anybody say riks_for _risk or risks ? Or is it only unstressed or poststress syllables that are subject to this change? Basilix, anyone? (What other di- or tri-syllabic words end in isk?)


*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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#12 2008-11-28 06:29:29

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

I’ve definitely heard people say “asterix” numerous times. I think they use it in the singular, too, but it’s hard to be sure you aren’t making up memories when you’re trying to remember stuff like this.

The only other polysyllabic -isk words that are coming to mind besides those already mentioned are “obelisk,” “tamarisk,” and “lutefisk.” None of those pops up in conversation very often. The genus name for the tamarisk plant is Tamarix.

In Old English, “acsian,” “ahsian,” and “ascian” are all common variants of the verb that becomes “ask” in Modern English, so /sk/></ks/ metathesis goes back a good long ways.

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-11-28 06:29:55)

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#13 2008-11-28 08:31:06

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

Re: asteroid << asterisk

Yeah, I’m not doubting that the metathesis happens, and as you show, it can go both ways. I was questioning Jon’s theory that it happens because isk(s) is hard to pronounce.

I mean, I ax of you, why aren’t you busy about your many taxs?


*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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#14 2008-11-29 12:30:47

Craig C Clarke
Eggcornista
Registered: 2005-11-19
Posts: 232
Website

Re: asteroid << asterisk

“I mean, I ax of you…”

The substitution of ax for ask is actually pretty common.

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