Eggcorn v. dialect

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Apr 22 21:07:03 UTC 2005

On Apr 22, 2005, at 8:56 AM, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Eggcorn v. dialect
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> On Apr 21, 2005, at 8:53 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> If there was a standard for BE, the following would not be eggcorns
>> but
>> standard usage:
>> "dash[-h]oun"  dachshund
>> "evry since"    ever since
>> "work like a champ/champion"  work like a charm
> they could still have had eggcorns in their history.  all three are, in
> fact, in the eggcorn database, though only "dashound" is labeled there
> as "genuine", with no reservation.  "every since" and "works like a
> champ" are both labeled "questionable" -- in the latter case because
> the expression might be an idiom blend.
> there is a "nearly mainstream" label for reshapings that have gained
> wide use: tow the line, chomp at the bit, have another thing coming,
> straight-laced, etc.  some people would now treat some of these as
> standard, or at least as acceptable alternatives, or as regional
> variants.  (others, of course, resist innovation and change
> ferociously.) note the carefully chosen "more or less" in chris waigl's
> brief description of eggcorns on the website (below).  she means this
> literally: some eggcorns are more common, more frequently used, than
> the two examples given, some less.
> -----
>   This site collects unusual spellings of a particular kind, which have
> come to be called eggcorns. Typical examples include free reign
> (instead of  free rein) or hone in on (instead of home in on), and many
> more or less common reshapings of words and expressions: a word or part
> of a word is semantically reanalyzed, and the spelling reflects the new
> interpretation.
> -----
> most eggcorns have not spread enough to become standard or nearly
> standard usages, but that can happen.
> arnold (zwicky at

I'm in complete agreement with the above, arnold. My intention was to
add to the discussion, not to attack it. If I'd been more alert as I
was typing, I would have added the oldest - in the sense of "the first
one that I became aware of" - one that I know of:

"crook" = crick, as in, "I got a crook in my neck." I don't think that
I've ever heard "crick" used in this context in a natural conversation.
Once, when I had a crick in my neck, I tried explaining why one should
use "crick" and not "crook" in this context to an old friend. (I knew
way better than to bring something like this up with a stranger; among
my friends, I have the reputation of being the arbiter of last resort
on matters of "proper" English, so this was a discussion with one of my
stone potnas.) He listened politely, but the expression on his face
clearly said, "That must be your asshole talking, because your mouth
knows better."

"crouch" = crotch, as in, "She kicked him in his crouch," is another
good BE "standard" expression, so to speak. I tried to explain this one
to a Japanese-American buddy, basically a standard-English speaker who
had picked up a few BE-isms - from having remained in an originally
white ("Jaguar" Jon Arnett, a white Hall-of-Famer in pro football who
was also famous for having married Jane "The Outlaw" Russell, grew up
in this same neighborhood), formerly-Japanese neighborhood after it had
tipped to black - to the extent of referring to himself and other
Asian-Americans by the BE "Buddhaheads" instead of by the then-standard


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