Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
“Endiron” is another eggcorn matryoshka doll-one eggcorn is nestled inside another.
The correct word, “andiron,” refers to a (sometimes fancy) iron holder that allows air to circulate under fireplace logs. “Andiron” derives from an older term for the same device, either “andier,” an Old French word, or “anderia,” the Latin term. The etymology of the OF/Latin term is unknown. Clearly, though, the pre-English words have no “iron” in them. The OED comments that the last segment of the word “was at an early date identified with the word yre, yren iron, whence the later illusive spellings.”
The “endiron” permutation may derive from the way andirons are positioned in a fireplace. Two andirons are set up so that each “endiron” supports one end of a log. The 1985 Dictionary of American Regional English (http://tinyurl.com/coqwt4) lists “endiron” as an American regionalism that is a “folk etymology for andiron,” and gives literature citations going back to 1899.
Here are three of the dozens of instances of “endiron” that can be found on the web:
Sale announcement “Antique brass endirons w/ log holder. More than 100 years old.”
Comment to a group blog post “‘ andirons ’? i’ve always thought they were called ‘ endirons ’. guess this blog is good for something. thank you.”
Strange post to a political forum “I even went dumpster diving and found an old fire screen and endirons that have some rust and dings”
What is neat about this eggcorn is the way a “foreign” word is gradually corrupted into good Anglo Saxon. We could almost imagine a comic-book villain, call him Beadwof, whose sole mission in life is to eradicate all non-Teutonic words from English. The immortal Beadwof takes the long view, working piecemeal to defeat ModEng, his sworn enemy, word by word. The first time Beadwof hears “anderia” in English he begins to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of English speakers about the end of the word, pointing out how “iron” would be an appropriate substitution. Once he succeeds in getting “andiron” into the lexicon (how he hates to hear a wordhord called a “lexicon”), Beadwof starts to work on the remaining syllable. “End,” he whispers, “good AS. Must be end-iron.” In the final panel we see Beadwof standing in a crowd, a fiendish laugh writ in bold above his head, as people all around him say in little speech bubbles “Andiron? No, endiron.”
Last edited by kem (2009-05-07 16:36:53)
Beadwof? Is the “wof” an unrecorded back-formation from “woffian”—“to shout, rave, blaspheme”? So this guy’s name is “Prayer-blasphemy”? Or is that “Table-blasphemy”? Or maybe Beadwof is a scribal error for “Beaduwof”—“Battle-shout”—which sounds très Anglo-Saxon (to my Teuto-celtic ears).
I sometimes think your caped Anglo-Saxon avenger has a shadowy nemesis determined to make some truly Anglo-Saxon words strange and alien. “Stirrup” looks quite odd to me—it feels like something the British might have acquired in India. But no, it’s from Anglo-Saxon “stigrap” (“stige” (ascent) + “rap” (rope)). The weakening of the second vowel and the gemination of the r go a long way towards disguising the word’s origins. But perhaps Beadwof is asserting himself after all—could the idea of going “up” onto a horse’s back have influenced the modern spelling of that final vowel?
Last edited by patschwieterman (2009-05-07 18:48:25)
Subconscious “up” in “stirrup?” A possible hidden eggcorn. I suppose the word “halter” might also have a hidden component-it’s how you make a horse “halt.”
Another place where Beadwof’s nemesis has been at work is the Teutonic word “akimbo.” Sounds vaguely Japanese, doesn’t it?
The source of “akimbo” is actually unknown—Latin, Celtic and Teutonic roots have all been suggested. The word is one of the great mysteries of English etymology—like dog, hog, bird, boy, and (the early Lithuanian borrowing?) mattock.
But I think the evil genius Dr. Akimbo—of uncertain origin—would be a fitting rival to Beadwof.
We could add to Beadwof’s accomplishments two other words with a history similar to that of “andiron:” “gridiron” and “fire iron.” The former is a metal lattice that holds the fireplace logs, the latter is an implement for managing a fire. Neither word seems to have started out with “iron” in it.
The shape of a gridiron, with its parallel bars, gives rise to the modern slang term for a football field. I note that a gridiron was also a medieval torture instrument, a meaning that could also be the metaphorical source of the term for a football field. Let me show you my scars….
Last edited by kem (2009-12-05 05:47:34)
Paul Jennings. “Punch” magazine 1966:
“In a foregoing piece (a week ago in this same mirthboke) I wrote anent the ninehundredth yearday of the Clash of Hastings; of how in that mightytussle, which othered our lore for coming hundredyears, indeed for all the following aftertide till Doomsday, the would-be imaginers from France were smitten hip and thigh; and of how not least our tongue remained selfthrough and strong, unbecluttered and unbedizened with outlandish Latin-born words of French offshoot. Our Anglish tongue, grown from many birth-ages of yeomen, working in field or threshing-floor, ringing-loft or shearing house, mead and thicket and ditch, under the thousand hues and scudding clouds of our ever-othering weather, has been emulched over the hundredyears with many sayings born from everyday life. It has an unbettered muchness of samenoiselike and again-clanger wordgroups, such as wind and water, horse and hound, block and tackle, sweet seventeen. The craft and insight of our Anglish tongue for the more cunning switchmeangroups, for unthingsome and overthingsome withtakings, gives a matchless tool to bards, deepthinkers and trypiecemen. If Angland had gone the way of the Betweensea Eyots there is every likelihood that our lot would have fallen forever in the Middlesea ringpath”.
That certainly has the spirit of Beadwof hovering approvingly above it.
Not all of Beadwof’s work is done with iron, of course. He has also been seen brandishing an axe. Specifically, the word “pickaxe.”
A pickaxe was at one time referred to as a “pikeis” or a “picoise.” It is derived from “pike/pick” and some suffix. Perhaps it was influenced by the medieval Latin “picosium.” By the 1600s English speakers had changed it to “pickaxe,” importing the “axe” morpheme.
Beadwof rejoiced at the insertion of the good Teutonic word “axe.” About the “pick” part he is two-minded. Pic-like words that referred to pointy implements came into English from both Germanic and Romance language sources. The OED makes this comment about the “pick/pike/peak” complex:
This group of words presents many difficulties…; the pattern of borrowing within and between Romance and Germanic languages appears to have been particularly complex, with individual words and senses being borrowed in different directions and at different times, in many cases reinforcing pre-existing words or senses. This pattern is evident from earliest times right up to the modern period when such borrowings are easier to trace, e.g. the spec[ific] sense ‘pointed weapon, pike’ which developed in Middle Dutch …, and was borrowed from there into Middle French and other languages …, and the transferred sense ‘peak, summit’ which developed in Ibero-Romance, and was borrowed from there into other languages.