cuff/cup and misremembering

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 23 17:05:14 UTC 2008

Hmm.  Cuff links for Chrismas?

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+
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> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Herb Stahlke
> Subject: Re: cuff/cup and misremembering
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I searched a couple other expressions with "cuff", "off the cuff" and
> "like a dog on the cuff." "Off the cup" gets 103,000 hits, but the
> only one even remotely close to "off the cuff" is a Starbucks pun in a
> Seattle Times article:
> A local spokeswoman suggested that Starbucks' off-the-cup opinions
> leaned left, and that if the company wants righties to buy lattes, it
> should put conservative opinions on cups.
> There are all of seven hits for "dog on the cup," none of which are
> even close in meaning to the expression with "cuff."
> Herb
> On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 3:27 AM,  wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender: American Dialect Society
>> Poster: RonButters at AOL.COM
>> Subject: cuff/cup and misremembering
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Larry's point is really helpful, and again it suggests (to me) that=20
>> misremembering is at least as important as mishearing.=20
>> One files a new compound (e.g., 'blood-pressure cuff') in the brain the firs=
>> t=20
>> time one hears it as the linking (borrowing some semiotic terminology) of a=20
>> signifier (phonological shape) with a "referent" (the thing itself) AND some=
>> =20
>> kind of "signified" (semantic parsings of the compound); to reuse it activel=
>> y,=20
>> one summons up the "signfier" with the "signified" that seems most appropria=
>> te.=20
>> Appropriateness is based on a number of things, including semantic factors=20
>> ('cuff' is more like what one has in a bloodpressure cuff than 'cup') and=20
>> importance of the word ('cup' is more important than 'cuff' in the frequency=
>> sense=20
>> that Larry is talking about, and probably other senses as well). Thus no one=
>> is=20
>> likely to recall that it is a "blood-pressure cuss" or a "blood-pressure=20
>> cough" (phonologically about the same distance as "cup") because the semanti=
>> cs are=20
>> too remote--even if one has not seen the device in question. And I suspect=20
>> most people get it right the first time, perhaps because they just file it a=
>> s a=20
>> unified term ("signified" =3D "referent") without parsing it much at all.
>> These issues come up a lot in trademark litigation and branding choices.=20
>> There used to be two grocery stores in Durham, "Fowler's" and "Foster's," an=
>> d=20
>> people were constantly confusing them because there was almost no semantic=20
>> material to create a "signified" to help one remember which store was downto=
>> wn and=20
>> which one was out on the Boulevard. Morphological parsing is just not helpfu=
>> l=20
>> here in the way that Larry suggests. However, if Foster's had changed their=20=
>> name=20
>> to "Fooler's" or "Farter's," people would probably have had a lot less=20
>> trouble remembering which was which, even though they are phonologically abo=
>> ut the=20
>> same or even closer to "Fowler's" than "Foster's" is.
>> One other issue is mere misspeaking. True slips of the tongue are more likel=
>> y=20
>> to happen when the alternatives in question are minimal pairs that differ by=
>> =20
>> only one distinctive feature, as with cuff/cup. It is unlikely that anyone=20
>> would be likely to say "blood-pressure cull," even as a slip of the tongue=20
>> (though I suppose someone with a really weird sense of etymology might misre=
>> member=20
>> "cuff" as "cul" on the basis of a knowledge of the French "cul" or the Spani=
>> sh=20
>> "culo").
>> In a message dated 12/22/08 2:09:14 PM, laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:
>>> At 10:32 AM -0800 12/22/08, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>>>>On Dec 19, 2008, at 8:03 PM, Herb Stahlke wrote:
>>>>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>>>Sender:=A0 =A0 =A0=A0 American Dialect Society
>>>>>Poster:=A0 =A0 =A0=A0 Herb Stahlke
>>>>>Subject:=A0 =A0 =A0 cuff/cup eggcorns?
>>> --------------------------------------------------------------------------=
>> -----
>>>>>I've frequently heard the expressions "rotator cup" and "blood
>>>>>pressure cup" for "rotator cuff" and "blood pressure cuff."=A0 Google
>>>>>hits ...
>>>>>... why would "cup" replace "cuff"?=A0 Is the use of "cuff" as a strip
>>>>>or fold encircling the wrist or ankle at the end of a sleeve/trouser
>>>>>leg falling out of common use so that the resemblence of the BP
>>>>>instrument no longer obviously resembles one?
>>>>but "cup" wouldn't make more sense.
>>>>this is likely to originate from a mishearing, i'd guess.
>>> But the mishearing might itself be prompted by the opacity of "cuff"
>>> in this use.=A0 I don't think it's a question of whether "cup" makes
>>> more sense here, but that specialized and relatively infrequent words
>>> like "cuff" are less likely to have extended opaque uses/senses than
>>> frequent words like "cup".=A0 The OED, for example, has many more
>>> entries for senses and subsenses of "cup" than for "cuff", many of
>>> which do not relate to a drinking vessel; some relate to shapes that
>>> may only loosely involve some sort of concavity, not out of the
>>> question to be relevant in the case of rotator cuffs and blood
>>> pressure cuffs, and some bear only a metaphorical or metonymic
>>> relation, as in "competing for the cup", i.e. the championship of
>>> some sport.=A0 "Cuff", on the other hand, has few separate senses, and
>>> is almost always (when unspecified) used for the thingy at the end of
>>> one's sleeve or trousers or the thingy that attaches to one's wrists
>>> or ankles with a lock.=A0 Granted, the last of these may be more
>>> transparently related to b-p cuffs (although not to rotator cuffs),
>>> and indeed I'd wager that patients who are cops or into BDSM are less
>>> likely to hear "blood-pressure cuff" as "blood-pressure cup".=A0 The
>>> general correlation is from Zipf:=A0 more frequent words tend to be
>>> more versatile, i.e. have more--and more opaquely related--senses,
>>> than less frequent ones.
>>> LH
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society -
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