exorbitant » exuberant

Chiefly in:   exuberant prices

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • As 0% balance transfer deals dwindle, cards that offer extremely low rate of interest for the lifetime of the balance are ahead in the popularity stakes. These deals allow cardholders to pay off their credit card debt over a long period of time without accruing more debt due to exuberant interest rates. (CardGuide.co.uk, September 20, 2006)
  • The Motion Sound KP-200S: Not Worthy Of It’s Exuberant Price (Epinions.com, Sep 04, 2005)
  • Titled Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, the doc focuses on the private corporations charging exuberant prices for goods in Iraq (a six-pack of Coca-Cola for $45?), much of which is, in the end, paid for by American taxpayers. (cinematical, blog entry, Sep 19, 2006)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Nancy Friedman (on her blog, and in the Eggcorm forums)

This astonishing substitution has aspects of an eggcorn, with the adjective “exaggerated” providing for the link between the sense of the original and the reshaping. But a case could be made for this being more like a malapropism, or for the meanings of _exorbitant_ and _exuberant_ collapsing into one when costs and prices are concerned — at least for some people. This is why I have marked it as questionable for the time being.

| 2 comments | link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2006/10/16 |

offended » offened

Classification: English – questionable – final d/t-deletion

Spotted in the wild:

  • Thanks to everyone for all the kind words about the NYT article and the move. And don’t be offened if I don’t get back to you right away. (link)
  • Vix, I apologize to you and any one else who was offened by my use of a slur to describe illegal immigrants (link)

[Edited by Ben Zimmer, 5 June 06: Marked questionable, since it’s unclear whether this is categorizable as an eggcorn. It would appear to be more of a back-formation, reanalyzing offend as offen + -ed. (Compare, for instance, the word mix, a historical back-formation from mixt.)]

| 4 comments | link | entered by Lee Rudolph, 2006/06/03 |

reproach » approach

Chiefly in:   above/beyond approach

Classification: English – questionable – idiom-related

Spotted in the wild:

  • “I think he would want to be above approach even when it’s from a state commission and not a private lobbyist.” (Kathleen Clark, quoted by the St. Louis Dispatch on 30 May 2006)
  • “I must say that his stewardship of this as Executive Director in the past almost three years now has just been above approach, and I would like …” (link)
  • “As a person who has spent a life time in the construction business, I can assure you that Midwest’s work was above approach. They did an excellent job of …” (link)
  • “I know I sin everyday but i strive to live in a manner that is above approach. Meaning no one can come and questioon me aout the way I live b/c I will live …” (link)
  • “Government actions in the employment, procurement and contracting markets should be beyond approach, and it should lead by example wherever and whenever …” (link)
  • “His creativity is beyond approach. The first bunch of his books all feature “Monsters” for lack of a better word.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Jim Parish (American Dialect Society mailing list, 30 May 2006)

Parish reported on ADS-L: “In this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there’s an AP story on Sen. Harry Reid, who accepted a questionable gift from the Nevada Athletic Commission. Kathleen Clark, an expert on congressional ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, is quoted as saying” the first cite above. Parish added: “If it’s a deliberate coinage - above being approached? - it strikes me as halfway clever, but there’s a definite eggcornish flavor to it.”

Eliminating duplicates, I found 88 Google webhits for “X above approach”, where X is a form of be. Most of them are relevant, and almost all of those look inadvertent.

“Above approach” is certainly a malaprop, with the relatively rare “reproach” replaced by the very common “approach”, but I’ve marked this one as “questionable” as an eggcorn because I’m not sure how approaching enters into the perceived meaning of the idiom, especially with reference to abstractions rather than persons. However, the last of the “above approach” cites, with its explanation that “no one can come” [i.e. approach] and question the writer’s manner of life, suggests a possible contribution. And maybe the development of “beyond approach” provides an explanation.

The “beyond approach” webhits include many like the last cite above, in which the expression seems to mean ‘beyond approaching, unapproachable, first-order’ (similar to “beyond compare” ‘beyond comparison, incomparable, first-order’), with no possible reproaching alluded to — presumably the malaprop “beyond approach” reinterpreted more or less literally. The next-to-last cite could go either way, and might represent an intermediate step on the way to literal reinterpretation.

| 1 comment | link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2006/05/31 |

founder » flounder

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • As the wind became stronger, the tiny boat floundered in the waves. (link)
  • With almost all of its sails fully flown, the ship floundered in the swells off of the Outer Banks for a while before breaking apart. (link)

When a ship is awash with water and unable to manoeuvre normally, it is said to founder. Perhaps because flounders are fish in the same seas as the ships, it’s almost more common to refer to a ship, today, as floundering than foundering.

In fact, in one of the references added here, flounder is actually given as a vocabulary word, erroneously defined as a boat awash in the sea.

Addendum/edit by CW, 2005/10/25: The substitution _founder/flounder_ (in both direction) has been submitted to the Eggcorn database several times and is discussed by Paul Brians and the American Heritage Book of English Usage. It is, however, not an eggcorn. The two verbs are phonologically and semantically similar, but it is unclear that one is being reanalyzed in terms of the other. An eggcorn requires that someone has understood the sense and spelling of word they actually employ, but not the word that is conventionally used in that particular case. See also Arnold Zwicky’s discussion of _flout»flaunt_ (also not an eggcorn).

Addendum/edit by AZ, 2005/10/26: Harsh, Chris, harsh. In fact, some people have explained to me that “flounder” is the word to use, because a ship in this sort of distress flops about like a fish — a flounder, in particular — out of water. The association with flounder (the fish) seems to be unetymological: OED2 labels it “of obscure etymology”, suggests various non-fishy sources, and gives as its earliest sense the not particularly fish-related ’stumble’ (attested from 1592). But then the sense extended to ’struggle violently and clumsily, struggle in mire’ and the way was open for comparison to a flopping flounder. (Suspiciously, several of the OED2’s citations actually mention fish.) In any case, “flounder, founder” is a great favorite of usage advisers: there’s a MWDEU entry with references to earlier writers, and most of the recent usage dictionaries have an entry — Bryson, Burchfield, Fiske, Garner, O’Conner, and Steinmann & Keller, in addition to Brians and the American Heritage folks. Of these authorities, only Steinmann & Keller (Good Grammar Made Easy, 1999, p. 140) seem to make the fish connection, but they still tell you not to use “flounder” for sinking vessels: “flounder, founder Sometimes confused. To flounder is what a fish (the flounder, for example) does out of water (move clumsily); figuratively, to be active without accomplishing anything. To founder is to sink because full of water: figuratively, to fail.”

| Comments Off link | entered by Kaz, 2005/10/25 |

prospective » perspective

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • Engineering Open House: Opens Eyes of Perspective Students (link)
  • You will take on the perspective of the employer trying to market his career field to perspective employees. (link)

Google stats:

“perspective students” - 118000
“prospective students” - 124000000

“perspective employer” - 12800
“prospective employer” - 1990000

If it is a reanalysis, the second occurrence quote might give a hint… prospectives looking at the position from their perspective.

| Comments Off link | entered by Sravana Reddy, 2005/10/20 |