feeble position

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Mon Aug 17 00:46:57 UTC 2009

[It would be nice if you edited quoted material. Thanks.]

On 16 Aug 2009, at 23:02, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> Apropos David Daniel's comment, I'd like to know what the difference
> is between "feeble position" (an accepted eggcorm) and "foreboding
> descent" (pooh-poohed).

Two notes in reply:

1/ I'm not sure what an "accepted eggcorn" is. When I enter a form --
and there are many dozens, even hundreds, backlogged -- my main
criteria are that it makes sense as an eggcorn, that it has been noted
in a place I may have a hard time to find again (and not noted in any
of the places I control), and anything else that may lend it extra
interest, such as additional notes, links with existing eggcorns or
eggcorn articles etc. There are quite a few early eggcorns in the ECDB
which, after further consideration, should be reclassified as
questionable, or could do with a rewrite. Need I say that the ECDB's
editorial standards, for all the honest thought that goes into it, are
somewhat below those of the OED?

2/ I had to look up the "foreboding descent" bit, as I certainly
didn't pooh-pooh anything. I didn't find anyone else who pooh-poohed,
but found Arnold Zwicky's note, noting the similarity to the founder/
flounder pair, which of course is described in his LL post "Pails and
flounders" http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004805.html
  . To quote from Michael Quinion's quote in the post, what we seem to
have here is a "confusion of phonologically and semantically similar
words", akin to flout/flaunt, advent/event. I've spoken to people who
were not aware that founder/flounder or flout/flaunt are two different
verbs - they thought these were variant spellings (one of which
probably wrong), or familiar versus standard forms. That's quite
different from the degree of reinvention that goes into a typical
eggcorn. Why would pointing this out amount to an emotionally charged
rejection ("pooh-poohing")?


Chris Waigl

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

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