Possible partial eggcorn: portcullis >> fort colours

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Sun Jan 18 13:35:57 UTC 2009

A three-year-old speaker of Southern English BrE of my acquaintaince
recently said

[fO:t k^l at z]

for 'portcullis'. Obviously, as he's still acquiring his language, we can't
be sure; but it seems like a pretty clear example of an eggcorn to me, at
least in the first syllable. As a speaker of Southern English BrE, he's
r-less, and the fiirst phoneme was certainly /f/, so it seems clear that
he's substituted the first syllable of the opaque _portcullis_ with a
phonetically-close one that has the appropriate semantic associations of a
castle (where portcullises are to be found), which could also be called a

The remainder of the word was less clear; it could even be that he was
pronouncing it correctly (since the last vowel is unstressed and, even
though it's /I/ in the target word, it may be that his idiolect reduces
that to schwa. In any case, I'd be reluctant to say that that too was an
eggcorn; 'colours' are also associated with knights, castles and things,
but I think that's too much of a stretch of association for a
three-year-old to make.


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
York YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) 01904 432665
     (mobile) 0771 853 5634
Fax  01904 432673

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

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