swivel room

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat Aug 15 15:14:23 UTC 2009

On Aug 11, 2009, at 7:10 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:

> Overheard on  Fox News (don't ask!--the Sean Hannity show):
> "There is no swivel room to accommodate the water."
> The comment was from a comedian commenting on the irrigation pumps
> supposedly being shut off because of inflexible environmental rules.

> ... "No
> swivel room" gets no hits, "Swivel room" gets 252 raw ghits, most
> irrelevant ... But even when it makes sense (when discussing
> clearance for a swivel bar stool) it's not close to the odd
> metaphorical
> meaning here.
> By comparison, "no wiggle room" gets 3 million raw ghits and "wiggle
> room" another 500K. _Eggcorn_? Or just a one-off oddity? Before you
> answer, consider that there are a dozen hits for "no riggle room".

those hits for "riggle room" are surely just ear spellings for
"wriggle room" -- for which i get 27,100 raw ghits.

"swivel room" strikes me as a perfectly reasonable metaphor.  granted,
a new creation, instead of the conventionalized "wiggle room" (and,
apparently, "wriggle room").  the three expressions are, of course,
phonologically similar, which is why you might think that the less
frequent variants originated as eggcorns.

these are cases that are hard to decide.  yes, it is possible that
some people were, in a sense, aiming for the most frequent
conventionalized version ("wiggle room") and pulled up a
phonologically similar expression with an appropriate meaning; that
would be eggcorning.

but it's  also possible that people merely treated the
conventionalized "wiggle room" as a model for creating fresh
variations.  people ring changes on established expressions all the
time, sometimes playfully, sometimes merely creatively.  (eventually,
this can build into a snowclone -- a formula at a higher level.)


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

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