New eggcorn?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Sep 8 15:19:57 UTC 2009

On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 11:16 AM, Alison Murie wrote:
> On Sep 8, 2009, at 10:43 AM, Bill Palmer wrote:
>> McClatchy Newspapers reports today that "Pakistanis regard the U.S.,
>> *formally* a close ally, a hostile power."
>> I do not find this in the DB, which seems remarkable, as it seems
>> like a very common error. Did I not look far enough?
> I'm still scratching my head over this.  "Common error"...?
> "Formally"?   Or that Pakistanis regard the U.S. as a hostile power?
> In the context, "formally" seems to me the mot juste.  We have
> certainly stirred up a great deal of hostility among Pakistani
> civilians by our drone attacks.

I agree with Alison -- I don't think there's an error in the McClatchy report.
Full sentence:

"Polls show that Pakistanis regard the U.S., formally a close ally and the
country's biggest donor, as a hostile power."

So the idea is that the U.S. and Pakistan are close allies on a formal level,
even if polls reveal a different perception of the relationship in popular

Even if there were an error, its eggcornishness isn't immediately obvious to me.
What would make it more than just a malapropistic confusion (a confusion likely
more common among non-rhotics)?

Brians has it:

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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