chifforobe » Shiffer robe

Classification: English – proper names

Spotted in the wild:

  • Inside the house, the only thing that remains is his mother’s dresser. He secures it to the floor with wrapping cord and leaves a note in each drawer that says, “this shiffer-robe belongs to Hazel Motes. Do not steal it or you will be hunted down and killed.” (link)
  • 1/23/2004 Here’s a panoramic picture of the baby’s room almost finished. I just have to get the door back on the Shiffer Robe. (link)
  • I am getting a dresser and a shiffer robe too and those are $400 each and the crib I like is $300 and it converts. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Arnold Zwicky (link)
  • Arnold Zwicky (link)

The two reports cited above are from the American Dialect Society mailing list. An edited version of the second:

I posted in 2000 about an experience I had when I was still driving back and forth across the country at least once a year, and looked in on antique shops in New Mexico, Arizona, and the California desert. Where objects labeled as S(c)ha(e)f(f)er Robes - there were many variant spellings - were on offer. Eventually, when I came across the variants S(c)hiffer Robe, the penny dropped and I realized that these things were chifforobes (”chifforobe” = “chiffonier” + “wardrobe”, itself an interesting formation).

In any case, since so very many things are named after people or places, this sort of reshaping is to be expected.

(The first occurrence is from a summary of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.)

The OED entry for chifforobe lists the following variant spellings: chiffarobe, chifferobe, chiffing robe, chifforobe, chiffrobe, chifrobe, shifferobe.

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2009/02/28 |

pray » prey

Chiefly in:   preying mantis

Classification: English – proper names

Spotted in the wild:

  • When I asked for prompts a while back, [info]marenfic suggested Blayne/Xander (the other virgin student in the cages with Xander at the mercy of the Preying Mantis lady from from “Teacher’s Pet”, s1). (Livejournal, January 29, 2006)
  • I was waiting for my brother to finish his fencing practice on 15 August 1998 so we could start out for Mackey to hike up Mt. Borah when this preying mantis flew up and landed near me. I had never seen one before and decided to take a picture of it. It was somewhat surprised that it stood so still without flying away, but I was told later that this is typical behavior for preying mantii. (link)
  • Preying mantises (there are several species in North America) are obviously very specialized for predatory existence. (link)
  • Kept a preying mantis once. Its my ultimate fav insect. Why? Hmmm, for one thing, I feel its the epitome of patient deadly grace that kills with a sudden strike. (blog entry, January 24, 2006)
  • The class originally consisted of four frigates, but one of these frigates, the Sahand, was sunk by American forces during Operation Preying Mantis in 1988. (Strategy Page, January 25, 2006)
  • Tobey added, nature’s “good” bugs such as preying mantis and lady bugs will not die from eating pests killed by spinosad. (The Huron Daily Tribune, Feb 5, 2006)

For a significant number of people, the insect’s name evokes predatory behavior rather than a religious posture. Raw Google counts: 60,200 for the eggcorn (certainly including a number of occurrences of intentional wordplay) vs. 840,000 for the original.

| Comments Off link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2006/02/13 |

Halloween » Holloween

Classification: English – proper names

Spotted in the wild:

  • Polyurethane artificial holloween pumpkin, United States Patent 6555188 (link)
  • The next Americans Abroad is a Holloween drinks in a spooky pub (well ok, the cobwebs were already there and well… city types getting smashed can be a bit spooky). (, Oct 2005)
  • Holloween and pumpkin carving (link)
  • Ok, so both Nike and Bape have released their Holloween edition kicks. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Kevin Marks (on IRC, Oct 30, 2005)
| 1 comment | link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/10/30 |

Adam » atom

Chiefly in:   know so. from atom

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

Spotted in the wild:

  • Gee, look, assholes, the world’s now a different place and your situation has so much improved b/c you killed defenseless citizens that didn’t know you from atom and have no bearing on whatever bullshit persecutions you feel you’ve faced. (, comment, July 7, 2005)
  • Or you don’t know me from atom and you’ve only just discovered my blog today, but you are impressed with how utterly confident I sound in propounding my hypothesis, so you figure I must be right and you start telling everybody you meet that they should read “The Thinking Toolbox” because it is the best book ever written on the subject. (Christian Catalog)
  • Eminem had a track, which was dope. But they shaped the sound of that record and fucked the game up. Now here comes a ni99a like me comes along. He don’t know me from atom, man. (Interview with 9th Wonder, October 30, 2003)
  • Someone who talks shit about me and faces me afterwards gains respect from me even if I don’t like what they have to say. While someone who hides behind the scenes and doesn’t know me from atom but talks shit about me just makes me wonder if they need to get a life. (Les Femmes Cafe, guestbook entry)
  • Don’t know you from atom. I have no problem with you. (alt.sys.pc-clone.packardbell, Nov 9, 1998)

I had the idea of searching for this eggcorn when I heard a speaker from Scotland talk about people who “don’t know him from Adam” (presumably) with a pronunciation that sounded like _atom_.

Arnold Zwicky pointed out in e-mail that this is also a potential case of a /t/-flapping substitution, which is typical for American English.

| 1 comment | link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/08/06 |

catalytic » Cadillac

Chiefly in:   Cadillac converter

Classification: English – /t/-flapping – proper names

Spotted in the wild:

  • “We were a strong competitor throughout the competition, but then the Cadillac converter fell off, which hurt our emissions and place in the overall standings,” said Jonathan Copeland, co-captain, and vice president of SAE. (University of Wisconsin-Platteville press release, Apr. 9, 2003)
  • To take out the old one I had to unbolt from the Cadillac converter, then I ended up cutting it in half to get it out. (Explorer Street)

Analyzed or reported by:

| 1 comment | link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/02/15 |