Heard on The Judges

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 6 17:30:30 UTC 2008

Fifty-year-old black, female plaintiff:

"After we reached our 25th wedding anniversary, I wanted for us to
renew our _vowels_ [vauw at z]."

I think that this is an ordinary hypercorrection and not an eggcorn.
The woman was clearly trying to speak "above her station," as it were,
being in court and all, following the well-known pattern, /kul/ >
[kuw at l], hence /vauz/ (generally indistinguishable from or even used
in place of /vaulz/) > /vauw at lz/ > [vauw at z].

As a child down in Texas, I didn't - or couldn't - distinguish between
"cow" and "cowl," using "cowl" for "cow," until I learned to read,
consequently becoming aware both of the spelling, "cow," and,
eventually, of the existence of a separate word, "cowl." I don't know
what you would call this - maybe just a simple mishearing - since, not
knowing "cowl," at the time, I couldn't have "corrected" "cow" to it.
Or it could be that I interpreted the singular of [kauz] as being
[kawl]. Who knows?

BTW, her husband didn't go for it, she said, so she threw herself a
50th-birthday party, instead, thereby revealing her age.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

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

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