soft-petal (was: bridle/bridal)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri May 29 17:01:35 UTC 2009

At 9:37 AM -0700 5/29/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>On May 28, 2009, at 8:25 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>>Subject:      Re: bridle/bridal
>>On Thu, May 28, 2009 at 6:03 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at>
>>>On May 28, 2009, at 2:43 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
>>>>Parallel to "peddle" for "pedal".
>>>of course.  in Brians:
>>The ECDB has "backpeddle" and "soft-peddle":
>>These should probably be combined into one entry with other examples
>>of "pedal" -> "peddle".
>each of these entries has a rationale for "peddle" in it.

As does "soft-petal" (since they are, after all).  I first
encountered this in a student paper and then began using it in
problem sets.  I see it's not in the ECDB.

The first page of "soft-petalled" on google is dominated by
non-eggcorns (soft-petalled flowers, roses, blooms and such), but
eventually the eggcornish occurrences pop up, and it shows up in
other verb forms as well:

Indeed it's not absent from the scriptures but it's tended to be soft
petalled in recent years with this idea of a God out there...

I told her that I don't want to be around him anymore, but I
soft-petaled the truth, I know.

It tells us that we do not need to soft-petal the demands of Christ
in order to gain Him disciples.

Also, once a buyer has decided they like a home, it is probably much
easier to soft-petal the defects the inspectors flag.

If you provoke another, you'll decide to soft-petal the situation.
[from horoscope]

Given this soft-petalling and your reluctance to answer in the first
place, I'm sniffing some Osama sympathy here.

If the media is starting to admit it, then they're recognizing a
problem and are on their way to stopping their soft-petalling these
acts of violence

There are puns, to be sure ("No soft-petaling: Daisy [Fuentes] has
strong opinions", news story header), but the examples above are
apparently quite sincere, and entirely flower-unrelated.  Of course
they could be simple misspellings, but I'd wager most of the writers
tacitly take the verb to allude metaphorically to the softness of
petals (rather than the dampening effect of the musical foot-lever).


>  but i don't
>see any rationale for "peddle to school/work" or "bicycle peddle".
>(though maybe there are those who think that people sell things off
>* "pedal"/"peddle" ratios (raw google webhits):
>   X to school: 450.6
>   X to work: 40.5
>   bicycle X: 54.7
>   X-boat: 6.04
>(that is, an unusually large number of "peddle-boat" hits.)
>meanwhile, there are errors in the other direction, with "pedal" for
>   Lily Allen's father used her to pedal drugs ...
>  One who pedals pipe-dreams to those who pedal drugs
>  The "Corrupt Bastards Club" - Alaska Influence Pedaling Sting. By
>Steve Lombardi
>  Brown and Garrett call this restaurant adjacent to the rehab clinic,
>McPharmacy, a favorite for the usual suspects pedaling pills and
>powder ...
>i'm still inclined to see most "peddle"/"pedal" errors as simple
>spelling confusions based on homophony.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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