first of all » firstable

Variant(s):  secondable, thirdable

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • Firstable, the term “indian” and christianity were imposed in Peru through blood and fire by European conquerors. (Marxism mailing list, Jan. 28, 1996)
  • Here is an essay written as part of the admissions procedure for our University Honors Program… “Firstable, to stay away from the reality of those traps that people are facing, I would be felt some classes if I weren’t focus.” (HAPP mailing list, Oct. 26, 2000)
  • I have many ways to explorate but firstable, I would like to work on relations between the “recall” of roman empire and colonial theories / words / language. (H-West-Africa mailing list, Mar. 3, 2002)
  • Well firstable thanks so much to you and to Wuwei Liang because it is a very helpful tool. (VMD mailing list, Nov. 8, 2005)
  • Well, firstable, it was very boring. (Freshman Seminar @ Baruch College, Dec. 3, 2009)
  • Firstable you have to know that the room and bathroom were very dirty and unhealthy. (TripAdvisor, Jan. 8, 2013)
  • Firstable, you’re asked to pay your room in advance. (TripAdvisor, Oct. 3, 2013)

Analyzed or reported by:

This eggcorn may be more common among non-native speakers who lack a phonemic distinction between /b/ and /v/ in their L1. (See Wikipedia on the ban/van merger.)

In the Eggcorn Forum, alexkrich writes: “This seems to be a word that is still recognized as incorrect by most people, and is mainly used by non-native English speakers unfamiliar with the phrase ‘first of all.’ This is compounded by the dubious construction ’second of all,’ which suggests to the casual listener that ‘-able’ is an ordinal suffix.”

The Stranger’s Josh Feit writes: “There’s a slightly new meaning here. ‘Firstable,’ I think, could be a noun that means the item that comes after the expression ‘First of all.’ Example: The case against Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was compelling and lengthy. The fact that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeada is firstable.”

BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick observes that “’secondable’ is also becoming a thing” on Twitter, but “luckily, ‘thirdable’ hasn’t caught on just yet” (though it is attested).

On, Alison Lynch notes that “we even have a Twitter account @1stofall_ that corrects people when they use ‘firstable’ by mistake.”

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2014/11/12 |

said » set

Chiefly in:   when/after all is set and done

Classification: English – /t/-flapping – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • As much as a foot of snow is possible after all is set and done. (The Denver Channel, Apr. 14, 2009)
  • When all was set and done, the missed shot didn’t mean anything but the impact from the opposing crowd was felt throughout every inch of Crisler Arena. (The Michigan Daily, Feb. 11, 2010)
  • There is no deal in place but when all is set and done, something expected to happen after the Academy Awards, Sorkin’s project is on track to get a pilot order by HBO. (Deadline Hollywood, Jan. 23, 2011)
  • After all is set and done, iOS 5 seems to work just fine, according to Mills. (TechLeash, Oct. 26, 2011)
  • By the time all is set and done over 2 feet is possible for the hardest hit areas. (News 4 Tucson, Dec. 13, 2011)
  • After all was set and done in Newark, NJ on Thursday night at the 2012 NBA Draft, most of the headlines left happy with their new hat, new boss and most of all, a soon-to-be-epic bank account. (SB Nation Atlanta, June 30, 2012)

Analyzed or reported by:

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2012/07/02 |

lease » leash

Chiefly in:   new leash on life

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • But it could give the neocons a new leash on life, a way to invigorate their exhausted ideological engines. (Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, July 9, 2007)
  • 38-year-old, mother-of-three Lauren Bays revels in her new body and new leash on life after undergoing “mommy makeover” plastic surgery. (ABC News, July 8, 2011)
  • Baldur’s Gate is getting a new leash on life from Overhaul Games with an enhanced edition coming this summer to the iPad and OS X. (Technology Tell, Apr. 6, 2012)
  • Commercial radio seemed dead, but college radio gave it a new leash on life. (Radio Survivor, Apr. 23, 2012)
  • Now Pacquiao has a new leash on life and a new found spiritual guidance that has changed his life for the better. (The Sports Mistress, June 9, 2012)
  • This gesture reduced stress, allowed me to open my heart to greater spontaneity and a new leash on life. (Dream Builders Australia, June 22, 2012)

Analyzed or reported by:

This often appears as an intentional dog-related pun, as in the song “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along” from The Muppet Movie (used by Rowlf the Dog).

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2012/07/01 |

drum up » strum up

Chiefly in:   strum up support

Classification: English – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “The morning I visited, he had unearthed 300 copies of letters Chambers sent, often while overseas for business, to strum up support for the bottle bill.” (link)
  • “They strum up support for their projects by concocting some unrelated, bizarre relationship between a group’s opposition and some other irrelevant issue” (link)
  • “LaMont says it wasn’t easy to strum up support, as people often do not consider film an art form and, therefore, do not think of donating to this industry.” (link)

The first cite is in a New York Times Magazine article. Googling on “strum up support” gets you a fair number of cites having to do with music-making, but also some, like the ones above, that don’t.

I wouldn’t have thought that the idiom “drum up” was so opaque that re-shaping was called for or that the sense of “strum up” (vs. down) used with reference to playing musical instruments would be salient to obtaining a goal by persistent effort, but the examples are out there.

[Addendum: Doug Harris on ADS-L, 13 June 2007, attempting to rationalize the eggcorn (which he hadn’t heard before), writes that it “makes perfect sense if referring to the effort stringed-instrument-bearing buskers, flower children and the like do to allow them to continue the lifestyle they’ve chosen.”]

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2007/06/13 |

Topsy » top seed

Chiefly in:   grow like top seed

Classification: English – final d/t-deletion – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “That’s what’s insidious about club drugs,” he says. “One: We didn’t recognize the problem. Two: It’s growing like top seed.” (Orlando Weekly, July 26, 2000)
  • The Amado Territory Ranch is anchored by an 11-room bed and breakfast inn, Amado Territory Inn, that has spectacular views and serene natural surroundings. The rest of the land was quickly leased by other vendors. “It just grew like top seed,” Art Gould said. (Arizona Daily Star, Jan. 5, 2004)
  • In fact, these grow ops, which are fuelled by organized crime, are growing like top seed right now under the current law, which criminalizes any kind of possession or trafficking of marijuana. (Parliament of Canada, Edited Hansard, Mar. 8, 2004)
  • “The commandos and the public order brigades sort of grew like top seed, very quickly, without much control, and without much training,” the American commander said. (International Herald Tribune / New York Times, Dec. 29, 2005)
  • [Robert Altman:] I get a bunch of actors together, I say, “Let’s do this—you be this character; oh, you want to do that? Okay.” It kind of grows like top seed. (Time Out New York, June 8-14, 2006)

Analyzed or reported by:

The original expression is “just grew like Topsy,” referring to Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who “jes grew.” As the original referent of “Topsy” becomes less and less familiar, the term has been reanalyzed by some as “top seed,” which sounds like something that might grow quickly.

| 2 comments | link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2006/08/10 |