"rough around the ages"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 29 04:00:16 UTC 2009

At 9:03 PM +0000 1/28/09, ronbutters at aol.com wrote:
>If this were just a spelling mistake based on supposedly homophonous
>age/edge then one would also find "sharp age sword" and "two years
>of edge."
>I'm not finding that.

Not the latter, which you wouldn't expect because the phonological
shift doesn't go in that direction.  As for the former, I do find a
number of "double-aged sword" hits, with the 'double-edged' meaning.
Hundreds more for "double-age sword" without the -d, and with various
metaphorical meanings, none involving age.  And one lonely "twin-aged
razor".  You can also bid for a valuable Thracian bronze dagger with
a double-aged blade.  All meanings possibly relevant here.

>And the phonology seems unlikely.

Really?  It's not *my* phonology, but tensing here doesn't seem that wild.


>  I vote for eggcornishness here. One sorta opaque idiom gets
>replaced by another sorta opaque idiom.
>------Original Message------
>From: Laurence Horn
>Sender: ADS-L
>To: ADS-L
>ReplyTo: ADS-L
>Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "rough around the ages"
>Sent: Jan 28, 2009 1:49 PM
>At 10:18 AM -0800 1/28/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>>Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky wrote this morning to suggest that i
>>check out this expression.  and indeed i got about 30 google hits,
>>from a variety of sources, among them:
>>    RnB superstar Alicia Keys can understand why she was labelled a
>>lesbian at the beginning of her career - because she was " rough
>>around the ages " .
>>    With Juno, she had so many dimensions to her in that she was this
>>young, confident girl who's rough around the ages.
>>    Bit rough around the ages but the staff are friendly and the beer
>>is resonably priced.
>>    More punk than folk, Bragg's forcefully strummed guitar and rough-
>>around-the- ages vocals (not to mention thick Cockney accent) belie
>>his keen sense of ...
>>    Rough around the ages and with some issues that need dealing with,
>>but he is mine and I am his and we are two peas in a pod.
>>"ages" here could arise from a mishearing, or from hearing a
>>pronunciation with a raised variant of /E/ before /J/, which could
>>then be identified as /e/.  i don't see a semantic motivation.
>I think the latter possibility is plausible--the writers are
>interpreting the expression in the usual way, but just spelling
>"edges" as "ages" (for phonological reasons), so that "ages" is
>homonymous between the two meanings (assuming "ages" hasn't itself
>shifted in pronunciation for these speakers). Then it wouldn't be an
>eggcorn as such, just a semantically unmotivated phonetic respelling.
>In the other direction, I see there's a west coast rock group "Rock
>of Edges", presumably just a pun rather than (almost literally) an
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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