ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Sat Jul 4 18:24:28 UTC 2009

Yeah, but one would then have to say the same thing about, say, "eggcorn" for "acorn." These are all just guesses about what people have in mind when they make spelling errors that could be perceived as morphological reanalysis.
------Original Message------
From: Chris Waigl
Sender: ADS-L
ReplyTo: ADS-L
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Eggcorn
Sent: Jul 4, 2009 1:09 PM

Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> On Jul 4, 2009, at 9:14 AM, i wrote:
>>> but "give free rain" does occur: ...
> Ron Butters points out (correctly) that it can be hard to say whether
> these are eggcorns or simple spelling confusions.

This is one of the reasons "free rain" isn't in the ECDB as things stand.

I have myself in moments of inattention spelled "rain" instead of
"rein", or made similar errors, while being fully aware of the standard
spellings and history of the different variants. An error quickly
caught, most of the time, but not always.

Another phenomenon is what Arnold Zwicky calls "pails" (see "On
the other hand, if you're stumped about the identity of X -- that is, if
the larger expression seems irretrievably idiomatic to you -- you can
just pick some existing item Y pronounced like X, ideally one of the
right sort of category to fit where X occurs (so, for [bi]-line, a
noun); you'll probably be biased towards picking a frequent word, or one
with a short spelling, or maybe you'll pick one at random.  The result
is a type of error i'm now calling a *PAIL*, after the (very common)
spelling "beyond the *pail*", where the baffling noun pronounced [pel]
is taken to represent the everyday noun *pail*; yes, it doesn't make
sense, but then idioms are like that."

It would be interesting to see how this picking of a "random" spelling
occurs in practice (educators will likely have an insight about spelling
prototypes for unknown sounds and sound combinations, as used by
learners spontaneously). In any event, "rain" for [ren/rEIn] is quite a
likely choice of someone who doesn't know and doesn't really care how
this is spelled and why.

Chris Waigl

The American Dialect Society -

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The American Dialect Society -

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