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Mr. Boffo lays an eggcorn
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More in Word Watch
Sunday, May 13, 2007
The eggcorn overflow
Today's Word column deals with readers' eggcorn favorites, but the harvest was too abundant to be contained in that small space. Here are more contributions (some in edited form) from the current e-mail crop:
Margaret Menamin: "I have encountered the confusion of hearken and hark, gauntlet and gantlet. I once knew a judge who referred to bodyhouses instead of bawdyhouses, and that certainly made a great deal of sense."
Jim Sciulli: Prostrate for prostate, road to hoe, maddening crowd. "[Former Pittsburgh Pirates coach] Bill Cowher always said, 'Sorta speak.' Is it so to speak or sort of speak, or neither?"
Nancy May: "How about hone in on? I hear/see this one all the time."
Matt Seccombe: "My favorite eggcorn (in my editing work) is just desserts for just deserts. It has metaphorical possibilities, with the good boy receiving chocolate cake and ice cream while the naughty one gets stale biscuits and bruised apples."
John F. Guthrie, Jr.: "Chomping at the bit instead of champing at the bit."
Anabeth Dollins: "There's a Chinese food seller in the food court of a local [Pittsburgh] shopping mall that has been selling 'Fried Wanton' for years."
David Westlake: "I've always felt that the granddaddy eggcorn of them all is momento for memento. Our brains are too good at making associations with things we already know, such as, in this case, 'Un momento, senor.'"
Edith Maxwell: "My son, now 20, used to talk about furnichair for tables, chairs, couches. My younger son used to say we were going on daycation. My goddaughter used to say she wanted to go out and play in the back yarden. Maybe those are less eggcorns than sensible new formations."
Jennifer Cox: "In 1996, when our entire office was being laid off, my colleague Pierre did his best to convince me that it was a blessing in the skies. I've always loved his imagery and the reinforced idea of 'heavenly' intervention."
Joseph S. Lieber: I suspect I am somewhat less tolerant than you of eggcorns; I tend to view them as little more than mistaken usage. Have you heard for all intensive purposes?"
Nick Giarratani: "Supposively or supposebly in lieu of supposedly. I work at Salem State College and am always
Sally Harris: "I've talked with several people who insist on using wheelbarrel instead of wheelbarrow. I guess it
Ray Smith: "How about the perennial children's eggcorn: chicken pops for chicken pox."
Harold Hyman: "Chaise lounge for chaise longue."
Elliot Singer: "I enjoyed your heart-rendering article."
Greg Nash: "One of my children told his friend that his grandmother had old-timer's disease."
Chaz Scoggins: "Here's one that makes me cringe: safety deposit boxes for safe deposit boxes]."
Bob Vanasse: "I have long suspected that children's common vocalizing of flutter-by, instead of butterfly, might actually be closer to its original name. It is certainly more descriptive."
Joe Donohue: "Sparrowgrass = asparagus. When I was called up in the Berlin crisis of 1961, and assigned to a Kentucky national guard tank battalion, I was asked, 'Do you like sparrowgrass?' I have an image of a huge flock of sparrows, settling down in a field of asparagus and pecking away at it until there is nothing left."
Stan Fleischman: "Does the misuse of tow the line for toe the line qualify?"
Jay Gold, M.D.: "Don't forget medicine (stuff that patients say) as a fertile source: Blood clogs, hard attack, old-timer's disease, sick-as-hell anemia."
Sandra Sweeney: "I was in the airport on Friday and heard a man say: They were wrecking havoc with it."
Elaine Bakal: We humans are always trying to make sense out of things we don't understand. In a memoir writing class I was in a few years ago, one of the students referred to a female character in his story as a pre-Madonna instead of a prima donna."
Julian Smith: "I opened a screenplay from one of my former scriptwriting students and discovered a reference to an anxious character being on tender hooks. My old student clearly meant tenterhooks -- but tender hooks struck me as a very useful description of the way lovers 'hook' one another or hook up."
Linda M. Elsmore: "The Globe ran a TV commercial depicting people from different neighborhoods in Boston. One, reflecting the neighborhood of Cambridge, used the word vervacity in her description. Didn't she mean vivacity or verve?"
John Bonavia: "I wonder if you noticed this extraordinary expression attributed to a Boston police officer (Globe, April 8): 'Sometimes parents just defend their kid until they're blind in the teeth.' I've heard of lie in their teeth or in a blind rage, but blind in the teeth?"
Barb Crook: "Isn't heart-wrenching just a corruption of heart-rending (or as some few others prefer to say, heart-rendering)?"
Earle: "KFI, a talk radio station here in Los Angeles, has a reporter covering the Phil Spector murder trial. This morning he reported on a defense motion to exclude evidence that Spector referred to women with an obscenity. [The defense argued], according to the reporter, that potential women jurors would have a guttural reaction to hearing the word. I found this mixture of gut reaction and visceral reaction pleasant on many levels."
P.R.: "Bare with me, tow the line, tough road to hoe. And a co-worker once offered me a kitten she referred to as a ferro cat; I could not convince her that she meant feral."
Sheila Hallissy: "As a retired English teacher, I have heard a