"thing/think" [was: on the eggcorn beat]
bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Apr 30 21:21:13 UTC 2008
On Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 4:55 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky
<zwicky at csli.stanford.edu> wrote:
> On Apr 30, 2008, at 12:19 PM, Joel Berson (noting a difference in
> judgments between jon lighter and benjamin barrett) wrote:
> > Do I hear two generational divides within one lifetime?
> there might be some association between age and choice of variant, but
> i'd expect it to be weak. there's probably some large-scale
> geographical variation (between, say, American, British, and
> Australian English) in the frequency of use for the two variants. i'd
> expect most other sociolinguistic factors to play a very weak role.
> i make these predictions because i suspect think/thing is an "ice
> plant variable", spreading primarily according to which variant you
> happen to have noticed first. whether you have "ice plant" as a count
> noun or a mass noun (assuming you have it at all) probably depends on
> which variant you encountered first. so the spread of the two
> variants has a significant amount of randomness in it. there will
> probably be a tendency for families to make clusters, but the items in
> question are infrequent enough that it's unlikely the variants will
> get associated with socially relevant factors.
> but i could be wrong.
The alt.usage.english newsgroup actually surveyed its participants on
"think"/"thing" back in 1999. Here are the results:
Even in this small sample size the generational divide is fairly
strong. Also, "thing" is generally stronger in the US than in the UK
(Judas Priest notwithstanding).
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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