wheel barrels?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Aug 12 01:53:37 UTC 2004

On Aug 11, 2004, at 12:21 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> At 12:45 PM -0400 8/11/04, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>> Now let's not be rash here in throwing out the phonological evidence
>> in favor of the folk-etymological explanation; there's room (I would
>> say necessity) for both. I might go so far as to claim that the vast
>> majority of folk etymologies are rooted in (or at least abetted by)
>> phonological matters.
> I'm happy to concede this point, and I bow (or ber) to the impressive
> detail of dInIs's phonological tale, not reproduced here.  I just
> wanted to testify that the folk-etymological component--the prior
> existence of "barrel" in more or less the appropriate semantic class
> and the psychological assimilation of the barrow to it--is a
> necessary part of the story here.

over on Language Log we've been discussing, for some months, many many
examples of what have come to be labeled "eggcorns" (an example of the
phenomenon in question; "eggcorn" is a reanalytic substitute for
"acorn").  eggcorns are malapropistic folk-etymological reanalyses,
turning on phonological identities (in english in general, or in
certain varieties) or near-identities.  "wheel barrel" -- which i
thought we'd discussed on LL but which seems not to be in our files --
is certainly an eggcorn.

recent examples unearthed by chris waigl, and discussed on her own
website, include "peace core", "bare hug", and "pair shaped", which are
phonologically perfect for everybody.  people, they are more common
than you might think.  eggcorns abound, in fact.  (i've posted here
about others over the years: "conscience raising", "say one's peace",

a little-appreciated feature of english's rather eccentric spelling
system is that it throws (certain instances of) eggcorns into relief.
precious evidence for linguists!

and, as mark liberman occasionally says, little poems.

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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