wizened/wisened eggcorn?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Aug 8 04:48:06 UTC 2005

On Jul 23, 2005, at 7:06 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:

> On npr this morning two singing voices compared. The older singer's
> voice was
> called "wisened." Hearing road wisdom in a withered, wizened voice--
> an eggcorn?

this is a complicated one.  it differs from standard "wizened" in
both pronunciation (/aj/ for /I/) and meaning (something like 'aged'
rather than 'dried up').  the motives for these two differences are
distinct.  the /aj/ is probably a spelling pronunciation, and the
meaning difference is probably a semantic extension based on reading
the word in context and overgeneralizing; "wizened" refers to skin,
usually of the aged -- but if you come across it very infrequently in
reading, you might not appreciate the specificity of the word and
take it to mean any of several perceptible physical characteristics
of the aged, among them vocal quality.

neither of these deviations from the standard is eggcorn-like.
unless, of course, the speaker thought that the adjective "wise" was
somehow involved in the word "wizened", which is a bit of a stretch
(though not out of the question).


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