A torcherous eggcorn

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Dec 12 22:52:46 UTC 2007

On Dec 12, 2007, at 11:08 AM, John Baker wrote:

>        Would phase/faze be an example of this [hidden eggcorn]?

no, because the spellings are different (in "the die is cast", the
more common noun "die" replaces its homograph "die", the singular
corresponding to "dice" -- and the verb spelled "cast" has
correspondingly different senses).  i'm not at all convinced that it
should even be labeled an eggcorn; i have trouble seeing a semantic
motive for the replacement.  if not, it's a simple spelling mistake.

the spelling with F is the original.  the variant spelling with PH has
been around since the late 19th century, surely originating as a
misspelling.  the question is how widespread this spelling is in
educated usage.  chris waigl marked the entry "nearly mainstream"
because this spelling is very common.  but it's still treated as a
straightforward error by a variety of sources: the American Heritage
books on english usage; Wilson's _Columbia Guide_; Brians's _Common
Errors_; _Garner's Modern American Usage_ (which says it is "an
increasingly common blunder"); Dowling's _Wrong Word Book_; Fiske's
_Dictionary of Disagreeable English_.  (these are all from after 1989;
Theodore Bernstein seems to be the only usage writer from before 1989
to accept "phase" for "faze".)

the examples in MWDEU, GMAU, the ecdb, and Mark Liberman's Language
Log posting on the subject include some from reputable sources, so
there's room for some disagreement about the current status of the

>  I have for some time
> thought this one of the weirder examples in the ECDB, because
> "phase" is
> a long-accepted variant spelling of "faze,"

so you said on the ecdb back in 2005.

> listed as such in many
> (though not all) dictionaries.

"many" is a very big stretch.  MWDEU in 1989: "Only Webster's Third
and Bernstein recognize it as a legitimate variant."  of the more
recent dictionaries i looked at, only the reader-created Wiktionary
and Urban Dictionary recognize it; it's not in the OED on-line, AHD4,
NOAD2, Cambridge Dictionary of American English, Merriam-Webster
Online Dictionary, Dictionary.com, Word Reference.com, or Free Online
Dictionary.  so it seems not to have made it into the lexicographic
big leagues, though it did crack WNI3.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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