"second-hand"--(possible blend)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 23 15:34:11 UTC 2005

At 5:14 PM -0500 1/22/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>Perhaps this usage of "second-hand" is better understood as a shortened
>form of "second-hand nature".  Google throws up dozens of examples...
>As we get older and cooking becomes second hand nature it's easy to forget
>all of the skills that it takes to cook.

Interesting--I've never heard one of these to my knowledge but I
suspect I have heard a number of instances of the "second-hand" form
with the "second nature" meaning.  There are, of course, several
cases of adjustments in either form or meaning brought about by the
proximity of two originally unrelated expressions that seem to vie
for the same space in the mental lexicon. These can begin as
eggcorns, but once they catch on the language has changed. Examples
that have been commented on (by Bolinger and others) are

daylight savings time (orig. "daylight saving time", but influenced
by "savings bank" and such)
safety deposit box (orig. "safe deposit", but influenced by "safety belt")

"second-hand"/"second nature" isn't quite the same phenomenon, but I
think a second cousin


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