Site-seeing miners

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Earlier today, the homepage of CNN.com featured the headline, “Chile miners take in sites across L.A.”:

But in short order, sites was corrected to sights:

Kevin Lyda sent the bat signal to Language Log Plaza on Twitter, so I was able to grab the screenshot in time. Kevin wondered about the original version, “Is this just a headline thing or is ‘sites’ evolving?” I’d say it’s an eggcorn thing, not restricted to headlines.

Though site for sight is not yet in the Eggcorn Database, it’s got a lot of semantic motivation for it. The sense of sight meaning “something regarded as worth seeing” is mostly limited to set expressions in English, typically given in the plural: see the sights, take in the sights, etc. See the sights led to sight-seeing, in turn giving rise to the back-formation sight-see. Since these expressions very often relate to the activity of tourists visiting tourist sites, the leap from sight to site is a simple one.

Googling for site-seeing reveals examples on many, um, sites like this one. It also turns up James Harbeck’s eggcorn-inspired poem, “My Veil of Tears.” Here’s the relevant quatrain:

When on a small site-seeing tour,
I took a pretty southmore’s lure:
jar-dropping beauty, looks to kill –
with baited breath I stood stalk still.

The site/sight confusion in the original CNN headline generated a snarky back-and-forth in the comments section for the associated article (click to embiggen):

After the revision, commenter “Bunnyturd” wrote, “Ah.. vindicated! CNN must have read our comments and just corrected the headline from ‘take in sites’ to ‘take in sights’. My english teacher from boarding school days would be proud.” Where will the Eggcorn Patrol turn up next?



24 Comments

  1. Kevin Lyda said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    It got me to click on the story – I thought they were looking for a place to open a mine in LA…

    More seriously, I know headline writers are tight for space. And since “website” has some travel/tourism associations, I was wondering if “site” might be acquiring the touristy definition of “sight.”

  2. Jeff DeMarco said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    Then there’s one I have seen a few times: Web cites.

  3. Marion Crane said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

    A couple of my coworkers do this consistently – site-seeing for sight-seeing. And then the other day, one of them who did always use sight-seeing, suddenly started using site-seeing as well. I think it’s spreading.

  4. unekdoud said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    And thus, acorn got its own petrol.

  5. bornyesterday said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    I’m more interested in “Chile miners” instead of “Chilean miners”.

    BZ: We’ve had some discussions in the past about attributive usage of country names, most recently here. But I think the choice by the headline writer was probably dictated by space considerations. With the (mis)spelling sites, it all fit nicely on one line. (Changing the spelling to sights resulted in L.A. getting orphaned on the second line.)

  6. Mr Fnortner said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    Doesn’t bornyesterday grasp the concept of looking for peppers underground? Like truffles.

  7. Robert E. Harris said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    Years ago, the Missouri Highway Department rang the changes on cite, sight, site for the Confederate Memorial north of Higginsville: three new signs each direction on I-70 at the exit for this memorial.

  8. mph said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

    Here’s a recent siting citing sighting from my area. Maybe the “video surveillance” made the writer think of “sight”?

  9. bornyesterday said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    Mr Fnortner, are you calling the Chile miners pigs?

  10. Graeme said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

    Like the old joke about an optometrist: A site for sore eyes.

  11. Faldone said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

    Regarding Mr, Fnortner’s reference to chile peppers, is that itself an eggcorn for chili peppers?

  12. blahedo said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

    Now I have this mental image of chili miners, and I’m trying to imagine what a chili mine would look like.

  13. Ben Zimmer said,

    November 20, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

    Well, better that than chilly minors.

  14. Nicholas Waller said,

    November 21, 2010 @ 7:16 am

    If it’s a question of length, what’s wrong with “Chilean miners take in L.A. sights”?, which is three characters shorter than the original error-headline. And “visit” or “see” are even shorter.

    Admittedly “across” does give more of an an impression of a wide-ranging tour rather than a couple of sites/sights in a narrow area, but otherwise is mostly redundant (if that’s not like being partially pregnant).

  15. Bellhalla said,

    November 21, 2010 @ 11:58 am

    @Faldone: Around where I live, with a large population of Spanish speakers, the chile spelling is almost always used when referring to a pepper, while the chili spelling seems limited to the saucy beef (± beans) dish.

  16. Mr Fnortner said,

    November 21, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    From diggers for peppers to cold children. God, I love this language!

  17. Mark said,

    November 21, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    I really like the idea of a “Grammar Petrol”. We’ll just go around “poring on” the gasoline whenever someone corrects an eggcorn. “We will berry yew” will be our slogan.

    Actually… I guess that is what is already happening, huh? ;-)

  18. maidhc said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 5:34 am

    I had a discussion a while back with a copy editor at our local newspaper on the topic of “the hoi polloi”, and I was very impressed with how knowledgeable he was. That still doesn’t prevent the paper from publishing the most egregious errors that suggest that if it passes Microsoft grammar check, it goes in the paper. My favourite is “Viola! There it is!”

    I can only assume that they think copy editing is such a valuable resource that it shouldn’t be wasted on run of the mill articles, but is to be reserved for editorials likely to be reprinted in other papers and other such prominent places.

    I like to read Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald, which often discusses such topics. One recent one was that popular Australian breakfast dish, “screamable eggs”.

  19. Rose said,

    November 22, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

    I saw the original photograph and headline above and thought I would read on to a discussion of why CNN had decided to diplomatically use ‘sites’ instead of ‘sights’ out of respect for the miner pictured – noting the dark glasses, I assumed that the miner must have, for some reason, developed sight problems after the ordeal. Nope, it was just another journo falling prey to the creep of eggcorns. I guess journalists aren’t infallible after all (sorry, Heffer).
    Reminds me of a segment in the irreverent British sketch show “Bo’ Selecta”. It’s called “Sight-seeing with Stevie Wonder”.

  20. George said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 1:27 am

    I just thought the guy in the sunglasses was the dead spit of Diego Maradona so I was too distracted by that to notice anything else.

  21. JimG said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    The whole CNN presentation left me hearing the clangor of dropping metal objects. Three strikes should have ended the paid-writing career of somebody. Writing “Chile miners” (when no one would write “America miners” or “USA miners”) followed by “sites” was bad enough, but non of our LL eagleeyes admitted noticing “visit Los Angeles and some its fun spots.” I remain unconvinced that CNN’s gathering of facts is any better than its presentation.

    Two digressions:

    @George — “dead spit”?
    I was about to niggle regarding some sort of portmanteau for dead ringer and spit and image, but some cursory etymology instead leads me to compliment you for faithful authenticity. Attaboy.

    And how long has LL been ending its pages with a tiny smiley?

  22. Dan T. said,

    November 23, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

    People do sometimes write about “web sights”.

  23. Jim said,

    November 30, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

    Unrelated to this particular story, but a new eggcorn I encountered this week:

    cue-does

    (He meant “kudos”.)

  24. Aaron Davies said,

    November 30, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    @JimG: the smiley is something to do with WordPress stats collection. Loading it probably triggers registration of each site visitor….

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