Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Another installment of eggcorn archealogy…
In Abram Smythe Palmer’s Folk-etymology book, Palmer cites an 1876 article by a French writer, M. Gaidoz. Gaidoz lumps the language events that include eggcorns under the term analogie . Analogical tendencies are at work in folk etymologies, Gaidoz says, but they also show up in regularizations of verb conjugations. Palmer quotes Gaidoz at length on p. xxvi of Folk-etymology:
Popular etymology plays a role in the development of language. It shows up mainly in foreign words and names, but it also affects technical and scholarly words-all the words and names, in short, that are unfamiliar to the language faculty. Everyday words, in contrast, are perceived as just what they say they are; they are taken as the things they represent and not as combinations of the sounds or letters that comprise them. They are, as it were, coins that people pass along just as they have received them. When they know the money is good, they have no reason to take notice of the stamped images or read the inscriptions. We hear the words of everyday language from childhood on and our curiosity about them is not piqued because they are just things we use. It’s another matter, though, when we hear foreign and underused words for the first time. Our curiosity is aroused, and since we tend to believe that every word must have a meaning, we begin to search for a meaning, allowing ourselves to be guided by a similarity between these unknown words and words we already know. We end up by distorting the words by means of false analogy. This is just the way things work: purists waste their time to be upset about it. [I have freely translated this passage.]
I suppose, then, that Chris’s “poteaux roses” (See http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … ?id=3#fn1.) are a subset of Gaidoz’s analogies, just as our eggcorns are a subset of Palmer’s folk-etymologies (though “subset” may not be the right term-they are more like overlapping circles in Venn diagrams).
It’s fascinating to discover that linguists 140 years ago were setting hounds on the same foxes that we run down in this forum.