pale » pail

Chiefly in:   beyond the pail

Classification: English – not an eggcorn

Spotted in the wild:

  • “… to both explain and construct human psychology based on these ideas and thus restrict it, somewhat, within this sphere; all else lies beyond the pail.” (link)
  • “Calling other candidates “wolves in the manger” is beyond the pail.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • David Scriven (link)
  • Arnold Zwicky (link)

On 2005/02/16 , Scriven reported “2,150 Google hits, most of which appear to use it as a pun.” (There are now about five times that number.) But there are some that seem to be serious.

In my Language Log piece I maintain that this error is the result of treating “beyond the [pel]” as an unanalyzable idiom and using a familiar spelling (”pail”) for the baffling part [pel] (representing a now-obsolete noun “pale”). So, not an eggcorn, but a related type of error (which I decided to call “pails”, from this very case). There might, of course, be a few people out there who have managed to see pails in the idiom.

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2007/08/16 |

hominem » homonym

Chiefly in:   ad homonym

Classification: English – not an eggcorn – cross-language

Spotted in the wild:

  • “I don’t speak for the “Religious right”, nor am I sure what is meant by the “Religious right”. I am however, quite suspect of those who attach labels in order to launch ad homonym attacks in lieu of legitimate debate.” (link)
  • Argumentum ad homonym or ‘Argument against the man’ is indeed the logical fallacy of claiming what a person says is untrue simply because of who it is (as*hole) who is making the argument rather than the validity of the argument itself. (link)
  • Your response to my questions was disrespectful, ad homonym, and tangential. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

It is only very rarely that we enter non-eggcorns into the database, but I am making an exception for _ad homonym_.

First of all, homonyms — or rather, homophones, i.e. words that sound alike but aren’t necessarily spelled alike — enter into the genesis of eggcorns themselves.

Second, because the _ad homonym_ malapropism illustrates very nicely what elements are required to make an eggcorn: it is a non-standard reshaping of an established term (check!), _homonym_ and _hominem_ are pronounced nearly the same (check!), but it _isn’t_ a re-interpretation that is based on (a correct understanding of the semantics of) the target word _homonym_.

In a typical eggcorn, the writer understands the sense of the word he or she actually employs; the problem is that the use takes up the place already occupied by a different word, often part of a set phrase. Here, however, the eggcorn users don’t give any sign that they know what a homonym is. In one of the examples, the writer obviously believes that _ad homonym_ means _against the man_ in Latin. It’s the Latin that is faulty, along with the recollection of what the expression is supposed to be, precisely. (And spell-checkers might have had their bit to add, too. Case in point: the spell-checker I just used on this entry didn’t know _hominem_ and suggested _hominid_. _Ad hominid_ also yields over a hundred Google hits, compared to several thousand for _ad homonym(s)_.)

The replacement of a “complicated phrase” by another “complicated phrase” is rarely an eggcorn: often, the writer is unclear about the meaning of both, not only about the original.

| 5 comments | link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2006/02/26 |

coif(f)ed » quaffed

Classification: English – not an eggcorn

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Local swing dancers estimate there are between 400 and 600 regular dancers here in the Portland area…..They are Lindy Hoppers, dancing the grungy. pulsating slingshot style and West Coast swingers, who look smooth and quaffed, like old-time movie stars.” (Story by Victoria Blake in the Oregonian, 16 September 2005)
  • “Over 100 fine male erotica photographs of uniquely quaffed punk bearcub type Chuck sporting shaved temples and long redhaired ponytail.” (link)
  • Page 20: “John Marler: With his perfectly quaffed hair…” Hair is coifed; wine is quaffed! (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Gilly Burlingham (E-mail of 20 September 2005)

Spelling errors that turn on homophony, but seem to involve no contribution from semantics, are a dime a dozen, and ordinarily I wouldn’t think of putting them in the eggcorn database. But every so often a really delicious one comes along. I give you “coif(f)ed” >> “quaffed”.

The first cite was provided by Gilly Burlingham. The third is from a letter to the editor of the alternative newspaper Willammette Weekly, in the 3 February 1999 issue, correcting a misspelling in its 20 January story “Pet Peeves of Portland”. (I’m assuming the Oregon connection is entirely accidental.) I can’t see any way to get from drinking liquids to styling hair, so I’ve labeled this one as not an eggcorn.

| 2 comments | link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/09/21 |

limb » lurch

Chiefly in:   out on a lurch

Classification: English – not an eggcorn

Spotted in the wild:

  • “There are no legal weapons. There’s nothing left in the arsenal. We’re out on a lurch.” (Ralph Klein, premier of the Canadian province of Alberta. As reported by CBC News, June 30, 2005)

A google on “out on a lurch” results in 35 hits at the time of making this entry. A combination, seemingly, of “left in the lurch” and “out on a limb.”

[Edited by Ben Zimmer and marked “questionable”: because of the lack of phonetic similarity between _limb_ and _lurch_, this is probably better classified as an idiom blend.]

[Edited by Chris Waigl and boldly marked as “not an eggcorn” — idiom blends are interesting and amusing, but a different stroke of fish.]

| 1 comment | link | entered by Pearl, 2005/06/30 |

sacred cow » holy cow

Classification: English – not an eggcorn

I’m not sure this qualifies, but this morning on WFCR (Amherst station for National Public Radio), a reporter was talking about some local government squabble in Hartford. He used the term “holy cows” instead of “sacred cows.”

[Reclassified by Ben Zimmer as “not an eggcorn,” since it doesn’t really fit our working definition. One idiom has been confused with another due to the synonymous nature of “sacred” and “holy,” but there’s no phonetic similarity between the two forms.]

| Comments Off link | entered by emulqueen, 2005/06/07 |