hurtle » hurdle

Classification: English – /t/-flapping

Spotted in the wild:

  • We’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada. And the number hurdles ever upward, as ocean levels rise and extreme weather becomes routine. (Nicholas Thompson, The New Yorker, May 12, 2013)
  • Our sun will eventually burn out and we’ll all hurdle to our intergalactic deaths. … One day you’re hurdling along, taking it all for granted, scratching for any edge you can get on this planet. Then you’re hurdling toward certain oblivion. (Neil Cavuto, Fox News transcript, Mar. 27, 2017)
  • “These things never come here,” gallerist Nina Johnson recalls telling the artist R. M. Fischer last Tuesday, as Hurricane Irma hurdled toward Miami, where he would mount his first show of Lampworks in more than two decades. (Architectural Digest, Sept. 22, 2017)
  • As the state hurdles towards the finish line for their ambitious project to wire the state with high speed broadband, local providers are making progress in connecting northern New York. (Sun Community News, Nov. 14, 2017)
  • Each character on the one-sheet gets their own prism as they hurdle towards Chris Pine’s Dr. Alex Murry. (Entertainment Weekly, Nov. 17, 2017)

Analyzed or reported by:

On Language Log, Mark Liberman writes:

For most Americans, hurtle is pronounced exactly the same way as hurdle. And hurdle, in addition to being commoner than hurtle (about 7.69 per million for the “hurdle” and “hurdles” in COCA, compared to 0.60 for “hurtle” and “hurtles”), has the advantage of referring to a concrete type of object and a specific associated action.

This creates the perfect situation for eggcorn creation: a relatively rare and somewhat archaic word that is pronounced in just the same way as another word that is much more common in everyday usage, and has a clear meaning that overlaps at least metaphorically with most examples of the more unusual word.

If you hurtle through or towards something, you don’t necessarily hurdle any obstacles — but if there were any obstacles in your way, you probably would hurdle them. And the idea of moving quickly without regard for obstacles is not a bad proxy for the usual uses of hurtle.

Commenting on Facebook about another example, Bert Vaux observes that “this is one of those cases like hearty/hardy where the deneutralization in favor of the voiced option yields a not entirely implausible interpretation.”

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2017/11/29 |

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