Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Wed Jun 3 16:19:20 UTC 2009

there's now a Facebook poll on "wheelbarrow" vs. "wheel barrel" (well,
it's spelled "barrell" in the poll): vote for your favorite!

"wheel barrel" was one of the earliest entries in the ecdb:

i voted, and my vote then appeared on my Facebook wall, which prompted
Doug Harris (of this parish) to post:

  >I had intended to simply state, with tongue tucked firmly in cheek,
that Wheelboro is a small town in southeastern West Virginia... then I
googled 'wheelboro' and came up with numerous hits ...<

Doug then thought of "wheelburrow", and i got some relevant hits for
*that*.  John Lawler added:

  >Don't forget 'wheelborrow', which is all about asking Dad for the

and, yes, there are some relevant hits for that too.

oh, and a few for "wheel borough".  and "wheel burro".

some of this would make sense if some people pronounced the second
element of "wheelbarrow" with @r (or syllabic r), so that "boro" and
"burrow" and "borough" and "burro" would be ear spellings, using
spellings for existing words with that pronunciation.  ("burro" would
also make some eggcornish sense, but i can't see any semantic
motivation for the other three.)

but even people who have &r (where & represents ash or digraph) in the
second element might come up with any of these spellings (or with
"borrow") if they're not familiar with "barrow" and are casting around
for an existing word with a similar pronunciation.  that would make
these spellings "demi-eggcorns" (in which an original is reshaped to
have *some* familiar element in it, just not an element that
contributes to the meaning of the whole; that's treating the whole
expression as an idiom).

there are also pure ear spellings for "wheelbarrow" out there:
"wheelbarro" and "wheelbaro", in particular.


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

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