"snubbing your nose"

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Sat May 5 19:57:39 UTC 2007

>Fox News reporter, just now:
>   "The judge said that Hilton essentially was snubbing her nose at
>the judicial system."
>   Less painful than stubbing but more senseless than thumbing.

I've heard and seen this one every so often. It's becoming
increasingly common, I think. Google results for assorted variations:

"snubbing her nose": 506
"snubbing his nose": 1580
"snubbing their nose": 846
"snubbing their noses": 2990
"snubbing my nose": 1030
"snubbing your nose": 741
"snubbing your noses": 66
"snub her nose": 765
"snub his nose": 2200
"snub their nose": 940
"snub their noses": 995
"snub my nose": 5260
"snub your nose": 3650
"snub your noses": 166

Interesting distribution there: "her" is definitely pulling up the
rear, and "my" and "your" are stronger with "snub" while "their" is
with "snubbing". I'm sure there are some interesting factors behind
that... hmmm... At any rate, a glance at the results indicates that
in general they are meaning "thumb (X's) nose".

I don't find "snub (X's) nose(s)" in the Eggcorn Database, but I
think it might count as an eggcorn, since, though it's a little
phonetically farther from "thumb" than the usual eggcorn would be
from its source -- suggesting more of a misrecollection than a
mishearing -- it is a reanalysis on the basis of what seems sensible
(nobody thumbs their nose anymore, it seems, although it was common
enough when I was a kid, but "snub nose" is a known collocation, and
there is clear influence from the normal use of the verb "snub" --
which would in most cases work just fine in these contexts without
the nose -- and probably a bit of influence from "snob" too), and the
phonetic details are similar enough to allow for substitution in
recollection (voiceless fricative, bilabial nasal, mid central
vowel). Or if I'm running too far with the eggcorn label, I'm sure
Arnold Zwicky will tell me, and we'll just toss it in the malapropism

James Harbeck.

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

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