bizarre typos

Geoff Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Wed Nov 25 11:14:02 UTC 2009

Without wanting to start a theoretical linguistics war I should point out that theories going under the general heading of 'usage-based' argue that all language is acquired, stored and produced in exactly the way Victor suggests, which accounts for a number of odd paths that language change has taken, among other things.  Consult works by Mike Tomasello and Ron Langacker, for example:

Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Harvard University Press.
Ron Langacker 2008. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

I don't agree with the whole theory, but your description of how associations interfere with what we 'know' certainly has a ring of truth to it.  Their seems no way around it.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

----- "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

> From: "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 12:49:20 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: bizarre typos
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      bizarre typos
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Through a friend's post on Facebook (actually, another friend's
> comment on a post), I picked up the combination "through think and
> thin". Given the authors penchant for typos, I had assumed it to be a
> simple typo. But it also bugged me enough to do a search for the
> phrase--it got 18K raw hits. While a handful of hits were incidental
> (e.g., including "..., I think, and thin ..."), the majority do look
> like "You're suppose to support your side through think and thin."
> Another handful (quite literally--about half-dozen) of hits are
> references to the lyrics of a particular song that includes the
> phrase
> as a play on words. But that hardly accounts for 18000 hits.
> Whatever one may think, I would not argue that this either a 1)
> eggcorn or 2) cupertino effect. Rather, it belongs to a different
> class of errors that creep up on us while we type *without* automatic
> correction. It is a classic word substitution based on frequency--a
> sort of "chunking" that makes us type a word without much thought,
> only to realize later that the word was completely irrelevant, even
> though it shares a few initial literals with the desired gloss. I
> catch myself doing this kind of "automatic pilot" typing with some
> non-trivial frequency (and may be responsible for a substantial
> fraction of the instances of the common word choice errors, such as
> their/there). Your mileage may vary, of course--just because I don't
> think it has a plausible eggcornish derivation or the cupertino
> selection might be too complicated does not mean that everyone has to
> agree with me. But I thought it was worth mentioning at least once.
> Next time you are typing and catch yourself slipping in an incorrect
> word "on automatic pilot" you'll know what I am trying to say here.
> VS-)
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