"wildly ramifying" -- eggcorn?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Mar 21 02:19:22 UTC 2009

Bernard Bailyn wrote "It was in the 1750's .. that one of the
bitterest factional fights of the eighteenth century broke out [in
New York].  ...  In the course of this wildly ramifying struggle for
what amounted to control of the province's politics ...".

I suppose a bitter fight can be called "wildly ramifying".  But from
"ramifying"s definition as "That spreads out as branches or
ramifications. Also: divided into branches, having a branched
structure. In extended use: that spreads, grows or diversifies", I
would expect to see instead "widely ramifying".

  Might this be an eggcorn -- for, perhaps, "wildly
rampant"?  "Rampant" can mean "of a fierce disposition" (A.1.b) as
well as "flourishing or spreading unchecked; unrestrained, running
wild" (A.2.a), the latter sense similar to "ramifying".  I can
visualize Bailyn thumbing through his (external or internal)
thesaurus, choosing "ramifying" over "rampant", but pairing it
infelicitously with "wildly".


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