jibe » jive

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • Books lend more diversity of faith as well, letting spirituality seekers find a belief system that jives with how they live. (link)
  • Pace said roughly half of his students these days go on to teach, while most of the others end up in business. That jives with data collected by “The College Majors Handbook”… (link)
  • Concordia’s faculty and staff help you during your freshman year to clarify your goals, build great study habits, and create a degree plan that jives with your talents, skills, abilities, and interests. (link)

Washington State University’s Common Errors in English nicely summarizes this eggcorn:

“Gibe” is a now rare term meaning “to tease.” “Jibe” means “to agree,” but is usually used negatively, as in “the alibis of the two crooks didn’t jibe.” The latter word is often confused with “jive,” which derives from slang which originally meant to treat in a jazzy manner (“Jivin’ the Blues Away”) but also came to be associated with deception (“Don’t give me any of that jive”).

| Comments Off link | entered by Thomas W Ping, 2005/07/05 |

wholesale » whole-scale

Variant(s):  wholescale, whole scale

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • In exchange for steep tariff reductions and whole-scale reforms of the Chinese trading system, the United States gives up nothing. (House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, May 3, 2000)
  • The NACB has called on the government to scrap prescription charges or institute a whole scale reform of the charging system to make sure the poor are not penalised by pricing the pre-payment certificates on a sliding scale. (BBC, July 3, 2001)
  • Shifting the FBI’s focus from criminal prosecution to prevention of future terrorist attacks makes sense, but Congress has a constitutional responsibility to carefully review any whole-scale changes of our federal law enforcement capabilities. (Congressman Frank R. Wolf press release, June 5, 2002)
  • Although minor changes in protein conformation have been observed in crystals, for example, a localized pocket in carbonmonoxy myoglobin (Zhu et al. 1992), to the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of whole-scale changes in secondary structure. (Protein Science, May 2004)

Analyzed or reported by:

This is common enough to receive an entry in the _Oxford English Dictionary_, with citations back to 1960:

wholescale, a.

[f. WHOLE a. + SCALE n.3, influenced by WHOLESALE n., a., adv.]

= WHOLESALE a. 5. Cf. full-scale.

1960 B. BERGONZI in F. Kermode Living Milton x. 168 Leavis’s case..is not a mere critical reappraisal of Milton, but a whole-scale demolition. [etc.]

It’s not surprising that as _wholesale_ moves away from its original mercantile usage to a more figurative sense of extensiveness, the _-sale_ element would be reinterpreted as _-scale_ to match _full-scale_, _large-scale_, _broad-scale_, etc.

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/07/01 |

baling » bailing

Chiefly in:   bailing wire

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • If bandages and bailing wire make life a little better, that’s fine. (Theology Today, Oct. 1970)
  • “It was all spit and bailing wire. I should say spit and telephone wire,'’ says Bill Hayward ‘51, a KOCN pioneer as a graduate student. (Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Spring 2001)
  • He “draws” his shadows from old heavy-duty bailing wire used primarily for binding large steel beams before being loaded onto ships. (Rensselaer Magazine, Winter 2003)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • A. Murie (sagehen) on the American Dialect Society listserv, 18 Jun 2005 (link)

These days, _ba(i)ling wire_ is often used metaphorically to describe how a jury-rigged solution is held together. As the original use of the wire for making bales has faded from general memory, so has the original spelling — Googlehits for _baling wire_ are now rivaled by those for _bailing wire_ (about 35K to 20K).

Commenter Sally Cassil notes that the verbs _bale_ and _bail_ are frequently confused:

I have recently seen several references to pilots “baling out” of airplanes, or people having to “bale” water out of a leaking boat. As far as I know, “bale” as a noun refers to a large “package’ of hay, and, as a verb, to the process of getting the hay into such packages. One “bails” out of a plane if it’s crashing, and also bails water from a flooded boat.

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/06/19 |

buck » butt

Chiefly in:   butt naked

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

Washington State University’s Common Errors in English “PC”izes the transformation:

The standard expression is “buck naked,” and the contemporary “butt naked” is an error that will get you laughed at in some circles. However, it might be just as well if the new form were to triumph. Originally a “buck” was a dandy, a pretentious, overdressed show-off of a man. Condescendingly applied in the U.S. to Native Americans and black slaves, it quickly acquired negative connotations. To the historically aware speaker, “buck naked” conjures up stereotypical images of naked “savages” or—worse—slaves laboring naked on plantations. Consider using the alternative expression “stark naked.”

That is not to say that there was any PC motivation in what I’d think was simply misperception of the original phrase.

The fourth citation brings up the question of regionality. The author is on staff at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, where he teaches English and Journalism.

| 9 comments | link | entered by Thomas W Ping, 2005/05/23 |

samblind » sand-blind

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • Lippio, to be poreblynde, or sande blynde. (Sir Thomas Elyot, Latin-English dictionary, 1538)
  • This is my true begotten Father, who being more then sand-blinde, high grauel blinde, knows me not. (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1596)
  • Sand-blind - Having a defect in the eyes, by which small particles appear to fly before them. (Samuel Johnson, Dictionary, 1755)
  • He is bald, sand blind, grey-haired. (Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, 1849)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Stephen Ullmann (Semantics: An Introduction to the Science of Meaning. Oxford: Blackwell, 1962)

All examples quoted here are from the OED; I first learned of this eggcorn from Ullmann (1962).

In the original samblind, the sam- is cognate with semi-; the original meaning is ‘purblind’, as Elyot indicates. The reanalysis of sam- as sand has not only altered the form of the word, but has influenced its interpretation as well, as exemplified by Shakespeare’s sand/gravel pun and by Johnson’s “small particles” definition.

The original samblind is long gone, and even the new form is labelled “arch., poet., and dial.” by the OED.

| Comments Off link | entered by Q. Pheevr, 2005/05/21 |