"fuse box" eggcorn?

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Wed May 6 18:19:05 UTC 2009

On May 4, 2009, at 2:46 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Fwd: "fuse box" eggcorn?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 1:45 AM -0700 5/4/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>> Begin forwarded message:
>>> From: Max Heiman
>>> Date: May 3, 2009 7:59:52 PM PDT
>>> To: zwicky at stanford.edu
>>> Subject: "fuse box" eggcorn?
>>> I thought I'd pass the following along.  News coverage of the recent
>>> air force flyover of downtown Manhattan referred to the situation as
>>> having "turned into a political fuse box," an expression I've never
>>> heard and which doesn't make much sense to me.  (I think of a fuse
>>> box like a relief valve, a device to keep things from blowing up.
>>> Perhaps the writer meant it like a crackling, high-voltage
>>> situation?)  The only google hits I get for "political fuse box" or
>>> "turned into a * fuse box" are copies of the same single article.
>>> Do you have any guess whether this is an eggcorn (and for what) or a
>>> nonce coinage?  I'm just curious.  The article is here
>>> http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/air-force-one-backup-rattles-new-york-nerve/
>> puzzling to me.  "fuse bomb' is close to 'fuse box", but doesn't make
>> much more sense to me.  "flash point" makes more sense, but is
>> phonologically very far from "fuse bomb".
>> (the authors of the article are A. G. Sulzberger -- yes, the son of
>> the publisher -- and Matthew L. Wald.)
> Searching through the mental lexicon under "political f...", locating
> "political football" and "political firestorm", and settling on
> "political fusebox"?  I think "tinderbox" must be involved somehow,
> and that is a metal box originally (though a different one, to be
> sure).  Maybe "(political) tinderbox" + "(short) fuse"? Or
> "(political) tinderbox" + "light(ing) the fuse?
> LH
I've been surprised not to see the meaning of "fusebox" most familiar
to me: that of the safety fuses on household electrical circuits
(mostly replaced, these past forty years by "breaker boxes" at the
service entry).  It doesn't throw much light on the "political
fusebox" unless as an unlikely reference to its being the place of
first resort when something goes wrong (e.g., the lights go out).

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