The text reads: "It's all about people. Money is only a bi-product you get when you squeeze them hard enough and long enough."
I had never seen bi-product for byproduct, but it's a logical enough mistake: Here, Mr. B (as corporate executive) is interpreting by-product -- an incidental outcome of a process -- as bi-product, one of two simultaneous results. (But what is the second product he refers to -- simply sadistic pleasure?)
This by- prefix, meaning "aside, apart from the main issue," is fairly uncommon now; an illegitimate child, for instance, is no longer called a by-blow, as Fielding's Tom Jones was. But we still have byplay and bypass to remind us of why it's byproduct.
Biproduct is also a real term, says Wikipedia, but it's not exactly a household word: "In category theory and its applications to mathematics, a biproduct is a generalisation of the notion of direct sum that makes sense in any preadditive category."
All right, then. But I suspect the mathematical biproduct is too arcane to be tempting writers into careless misspellings. In Mister Boffo's use, at least, biproduct has all the marks of a genuine eggcorn.
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.