guttural » gutteral

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • We want comics to be better, but our discourse is admittedly coarse at times. Our opinions are so gutteral that tamer metaphors seem not to capture them, be they disgust or joy. (link)
  • These are some of the ugly things I’m reacting to here as of late. Your comments about Randall Terry seem so gutteral, they reveal more about you than you know. (link)
  • There would also be old guys in the neighborhood who had old blues 78s of various things like Smokey Hogg. That was off limits to my mother because she thought that those kinds of blues were much too gutteral, but I loved them. (link)
  • From Bakerina, this post was really gutteral and intense I thought. (link)
  • To insult someone with a mind as gutteral and obscene as yours, my Islamic-Fundamentalist friend, someone certainly does have to stoop low. (link)
  • Let’s not forget that these guys went into this with eyes wide open and a pile of explicitly worded releases signed, dated and witnessed. They knew exactly what they were getting into. Yet they were perfectly willing to undergo this sort of thing for money and perhaps that gutteral 15 seconds of reality TV “fame.”

    By the way, by “gutteral” did you mean “guttering”, as in “to burn low and unsteadily; to flicker”? Just curious!

    I guess what I meant was related to the gutter, lower in class than bona fide fame: gutteral (not like the throaty noise some folks make.) (link)

Gutteral is a common misspelling of guttural, but these examples indicate that the orthographic shift often accompanies a semantic shift, evoking various associations with the figurative gutter (low-down, vulgar) or even the gut (visceral, intense).

Rush Limbaugh’s recent quasi-apology for referring to oral sex with a “guttural term” (as rendered in two transcripts of the radio broadcast) is something of an auditory version of this eggcorn. It’s possible that the “down-in-the-gutter” sense is overtaking the “back-of-the-throat” articulatory sense of guttural, however spelled.

[Update, 6 Nov 05: See this Language Log post for much more on the subject.]

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/04/14 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Indefatigable , 2005/05/16 at 6:51 pm

    In a similar misunderstanding of meaning (although the word wasn’t respelled in this case), I recently read about ‘largesse’ being used as an adjective to describe a fat woman.

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