bollards, bolsters, who cares?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed May 9 06:23:06 UTC 2007

On May 8, 2007, at 8:54 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> FWIW, "traffic bollards" sounds all right to me.

i guess i wasn't direct enough.  what i meant to say was:

|as far as i know, "traffic bollards" is an entirely standard and
ordinary way to refer to these objects.  (no doubt many people have
no name at all for them, and there might be alternatives i don't know
about, but there's nothing notable about "traffic bollards".)|

so, yes, i'd expect the expression to sound fine to wilson (so long
as he's familiar with the word "bollard"), and to any other english
speaker (so long as they're familiar with the word "bollard")

> "Traffic bolsters"
> sounds laughable. Perhaps it's mere slip of the keyboard.

what i meant to say was:

|"traffic bolsters" is an error, period -- a judgment, um, bolstered
by the fact that the occurrence i cited seems to be the *only* one
pulled up on a google net search, and contrasts with the 22k hits for
"traffic bollards".|

it's extremely unlikely to be a typo, though; "bollard" > "bolster"
is a *big* keyboard (or spelling) stretch.  "bolster" is surely some
kind of malapropism -- either a classical malapropism (the writer had
stored "bolster" instead of "bollard" in their mental lexicon, for
whatever reason) or a retrieval error of the fay/cutler type (the
writer was trying to pull up the word for these objects and got
"bolster" instead of the phonologically similar "bollard").


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