With drawls

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Paul Kay:

The website of a Palo Alto yoga emporium sports the following bit of pricing information:

monthly unlimited automatic with drawl ** $125

The doubly starred footnote explains:

** Requires a 6-month commitment.

Which seems to mean you can have all the yoga lessons you can stand if you sign up for an automatic withdrawal of $125/mo. from your bank account (for at least six months).

Other examples of spelling withdrawal as "with drawl" are easy to find on the web:

Hannah's HOPE is now equipped with automatic with drawl from your bank account, if you would like to become a monthly donor.
In the instance that the broker offers it, you can set up an automatic with drawl plan this way the process is automated.
Contact Susan or Larraine if you are interested in the option of automatic with drawl.
Accepted methods of payment include check, cash or automatic with drawl.
Can xanax with drawl cause blurred vision?
Banks discourage early with drawl of investments from their investment schemes. Their penalties are stiff on early with drawl.
Why are with drawl symptoms from smoking so difficult to go through?
what are the taxes on a $25000 with drawl from my 401k.

Many of these are no doubt just slips of the fingers, but it seems likely that some people do think that withdrawal is a loose compound of with and drawl, along the lines of uptake or outcast, even though the semantic relationship is an opaque one.

If so, then this is a sort of semi-eggcorn, in that it's a sporadic folk etymology, but one where the re-analysis into familiar words doesn't actually make any sense. Unless you can see a plausible way to turn  speaking slowing with prolonged vowels into a metaphor for the act of taking away something that has been granted.


  1. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:27 am

    does anyone in the US even faintly pronounce the second w in withdrawal?

    i'd guess that drawl and -drawal are subtly but definitely different for most british & irish speakers.

    when i set the region in google to the uk, there are no real hits, at first attempt google switches to "withdrawal" automatically and has to be told to look for the words as entered.

    [(myl) I believe that for most U.S. speakers, withdrawal and with drawl are homophonous. They certainly seem to be for me.]

  2. Brian said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:54 am

    Perhaps it's a Cupertino.

  3. army1987 said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    I can't explain the space: "uptake", "outcast" etc. are all spelt as one word.

  4. Yuval said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    I second Brian.

  5. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:13 am

    Google also includes several instances of hyphenated "with-drawal", including one in a scholarly paper published in a book (!). The authors of the paper appear to be Danes.

    With-drawl or discontinuous patient care-paths with the CPOE … As clean ups and with-drawl are not routinely and/or automatically done with a non-paper …

  6. Steve F said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    I can confirm for Ben that for at least this Brit – and, I'm fairly sure, many others – 'withdrawal' and 'with drawl' are not homophonous, though they are close. It's not so much that we pronounce the w, (we don't – or at least, I don't) but 'drawal' is definitely two syllables, linked by, not a w, but something like a weak glottal stop.

  7. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:19 am

    I checked out the Cupertino idea starting with "withdrawl" in Word and Pages. "with drawl" was about the 4th or 5th suggestion.

  8. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:20 am

    Yeah, pronounce is a bit of a big word for what we do with that w, but hell, I'm not a linguist.

  9. Leonardo Boiko said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:27 am

    Could the word “drawl” be getting a new meaning via back-formation? Unfortunately I could find no examples of “without drawl” meaning “without the act of taking away” &c.

  10. xyzzyva said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:32 am

    In IPA:
    –US: /wɪθˈdɹɔːl/
    –England, etc.: /wɪðˈdɹɔː.əl/

    Heh, I suppose from the US perspective the British pronounce this word with a prolonged vowel.

  11. GeorgeW said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:40 am

    We in the American south speak with drawl.

  12. Thomas said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    I (Am Eng) pronounce withdrawal as three syllables, but do not pronounce the w.

  13. John said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 8:40 am

    I suspect a Cupertino too, but wonder whether some people just figure, "Oh, that weird bank English," and assume that it's unfathomable, like escheat or something.

  14. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 9:13 am

    You'll discard the Cupertino theory if you spend a minute googling "with drawl". It's used *a lot* by people without access to spellcheck. Here's the second hit I got when I tried it just now: "What can with drawl from antysicotic medication do to somone with …"

  15. Greg said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    …it seems likely that some people do think that withdrawal is a loose compound of with and drawl, along the lines of uptake or outcast…

    I wonder if there are some dialects whose pronunciation of withdrawal has stress on the first syllable, maybe something like /'wɪθ.dɹaːl/ (like in the US South, maybe?). And I wonder if the people who speak these dialects are more likely to parse it as with and drawl?

  16. Lazar said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 9:44 am

    If I'm not mistaken, in modern British English "withdrawal" tends to have an intrusive /r/ in the middle, which would impede the syllabic reduction that's taken place in the US.

  17. Laura said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:19 am

    I (UK, specifically England) don't have much cause to say 'withdrawal' out loud, and even less so 'drawl', but doing so now they sound pretty homophonous to me (close enough so as not to notice in normal speech, anyway). But 'drawl' is perhaps less salient over here than it is to US speakers, where it seems the Southern accent is often described as a drawl. No UK accents are commonly described that way, at least not to my knowledge, and the word seems quite rare to me – I usually encounter it in novels where the writer needs to vary from 'he said'. But I haven't checked, so it could just be my illusion.

  18. Mark F. said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    xyzzyva – I can't tell whether the th is voiced or unvoiced when I say it; it tends to be so reduced that it's hard to tell. I tend to think of it as voiced, though. (AmE speaker.)

  19. Coby Lubliner said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    The "clean ups" in the paper cited by Jon Weinberg reminds of a current movie titled "GROWN UPS," apparently the story of a small delivery company that becomes the giant formally named United Parcel Service.

  20. Bloix said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    I see "withdrawl" frequently, but I've never seen "with drawl" before.

  21. dw said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

    In England, "draw" and "drawer" are usually homophonous., so I very much doubt that many speakers distinguish "withdrawal" from "with drawl" in pronunciation. I certainly didn't with I lived there.

    My strong sense is that this is generally a cupertino from "withdrawl", and that the greater salience of the word "drawl" in the US is responsible for the transatlantic difference.

  22. Chandra said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    It seems to me that "withdraw" as a verb used for banking operations is common enough that most people would get the connection to "withdrawal", so I'd be surprised if the "drawl" part were an eggcorn associated with drawn-out speech.

  23. ironhorse said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

    How about are "with draw" and "with drawn" and "with drew?"

  24. Arnold Zwicky said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    This is the type of demi-eggcorn that I posted about on Language Log here, under the name pail — a re-shaping that produces more recognizable phonological parts, but without gaining any real semantic advantage. Further discussion here.

  25. Emily Viehland said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

    It always annoys me when my spell-checker underlines "withdrawl"; maybe enough people have been corrected enough times to believe that the spell-checker is right?

  26. Adrian Bailey (UK) said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    It isn't an eggcorn, it's a spelling mistake. Spellcheckers don't pick it up so it hasn't got much chance of being corrected.

  27. Justin said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

    I blame Harry Potter for the salience of "drawl" :)
    Google ngrams seems to agree. George W Bush also fits the data, though.

    Meanwhile, "withdraw[al]" might be declining.

  28. Chandra said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

    @Emily – Unless that was a typo, your spell-checker is right (it should be "withdrawal").

  29. pj said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    I'm another (fairly standard southern) BrE speaker and I think (muttering the words in isolation here to myself) I distinguish between the two in speaking – 'drawl' has the 'THOUGHT' vowel, and in '-drawal' that's followed by a schwa. Sometimes even, as Lazar says, an intrusive 'r' gets in there ('withdrawral'); I certainly wouldn't bat an eyelid to hear one, although I don't think I'd generally insert one myself.

    xyzzyva, I regret that with my rudimentary and rusty IPA I'm not sure quite what the dot before the schwa represents in your /wɪðˈdɹɔː.əl/ – I think I'd excise it to represent my usual pronunciation (without added 'r'), but otherwise it looks good to me, voiced 'th' and all.

    I should perhaps add, though, that my, and most UKers', normal pronunciation of 'automatic withdrawal' in the banking sense is 'direct debit' ;o).

  30. Ellen K said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

    It seems to me talking about pronouncing the w in withdrawal is like talking about pronouncing the h in change. Like, ch, aw is a digraph. It represents the /ɔ/ sound.

    Although, Wiktionary shows an alternative pronunciation of withdraw with /ɑʊ/ instead of /ɔ:/. Even so, getting a w sound in withdrawal requires a vowel in the 3rd syllable, rather than a syllabic L.

  31. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    For this AmE speaker, the "th" in "with drawl" is voiced but the "th" in "withdrawal" is not (or at least initially seems not to be, but I rapidly get to that point where self-consciousness is perhaps undermining the validity of the observation). Same vowels and syllable count, though. Stress pattern for "with drawl" might be different, depending on context of use (as I would think is typical of phrases "with NOUN" – sometimes you'd put more stress on one word and other times the other), but of course there are only limited contexts in which you'd ever say that in preference to, e.g., "she spoke with a drawl."

  32. April K said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    You mean the yoga studio isn't offering a better rate for us Texans?

  33. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

    It seems to me talking about pronouncing the w in withdrawal is like …

    OK, OK, I took back the word "pronounce" already ;-)

    All I'm saying is, for me, something happens between the two a's of withdrawal that doesn't happen between the a and the w of drawl.

    They're not homophonic for most british or irish speakers (even without the intrusive r, which i can imagine easily for some english people) and I repeat my earlier observation that with region=UK, google turns up no hits for "with drawl" whereas with region unrestricted there are tons of hits. That seems to me a significant indication that it's a language issue (a significant number of people feel its the right spelling) and not just a typing error. The fact that I can't think of a british regional accent I'd describe as a drawl may well also be a factor (i bet the word drawl just isn't as present in my mind as it is to a US american).

  34. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

    or the w and the l, for that matter.

  35. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:41 pm


    Google searching for "'with draw' oxycontin" yields top hits including these:
    Ultram with draw – Addiction: Substance Abuse – MedHelp

    He spent a week in the hospital with severe with draw.
    you have to take if you iam taking 5 oxy 80 a day not to go in with draw

  36. Matthew Moppett said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    A few people here have mentioned 'intrusive r' in discussing the pronunciation of withdrawal, but nobody seems to want to own up to it.

    I will, though: I pronounce withdrawal as 'withdroral' (I'm Australian), and I'm pretty sure that nearly everybody else here does, too. 'With drawl' sounds very different: only two syllables, and one 'r' sound.

  37. Matthew Moppett said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

    Just to clarify my last post: 'here' in the first paragraph means 'in this comments section'; in the second paragraph it means 'in Australia'. I should have checked more thoroughly before I posted.

  38. Dw said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    @Ben Hemmens:

    They're not homophonic for most british or irish speakers

    What is your basis for making this claim?

    with region=UK, google turns up no hits for "with drawl" whereas with region unrestricted there are tons of hits

    There are plenty of UK Google hits for "withdrawl", though

  39. Shane (Real) said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    I think what's most disturbing is the high chance that the author is a Stanford Student or Graduate.

  40. David Fried said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

    A pedantic question about the meaning of "Cupertino": Clearly when you select an absurd alternative supplied by the spellchecker to a perfectly correct word, that's a Cupertino. A spellchecker would flag "withdrawl" as incorrect. It would remove the flag if the writer on a flying review, noted the "with," took it for a preposition, and introduced a space between it and "drawl." This may have been what occurred here, but is it a Cupertino? I think not. Thoughts, mateys?

  41. Garrett Wollman said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    @David Fried: the spellchecker that I use, at least, offers both hyphenated and two-word alternatives when it doesn't like a particular spelling. For "withdrawl", it offers "withdraw", "withdrawal", "withdrawn", "withdraws", and the nonsensical "withdraw l", "withdraw-l", "with drawl", and "with-drawl", in that order. (And unlike the one built in to Firefox, it accepts "spellchecker".)

  42. jc said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

    Well, I'm an American, raised mostly around Seattle, but with a few years in Flagstaff and Little Rock, and I pronounce the 'w' in "withdrawal" weakly, giving three syllables. It could probably be heard as a lengthened /a/, though I can feel the motion of the 'w' in my mouth. Also, my native dialect has the cot/caught merge, so the a's are the more central vowel. The third syllable isn't /əl/; it has the /a/ vowel (whatever the IPA symbol for it is). And I think I'd put more stress on the second syllable of "with drawl", when describing the speech of my Arkansaw relatives, while "withdrawal" has nearly equal stress on the "with" and "draw" syllables. Another data point, FWIW.

  43. Ray Dillinger said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

    I don't pronounce the w, but "withdrawal" has three vowels. The last two, before and after the spelled but silent 'w', have different sounds. "with-draw-[schwa]l" seems to be the pronunciation for me.

  44. Vireya said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 3:32 am

    Matthew Moppett, I'll own up to the r. It's with-dror-ral to me. But I'm also Australian.

  45. Erik said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 3:58 am

    Coming from western Canada, I can't see myself spelling withdrawal with two words because "with" has the "th" sound from thistle for me, so it doesn't sound the same as "with." As well, I count three syllables: with-draw-[back of the mouth sound]l; drawl only has one syllable.

  46. John F said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 5:35 am

    In Northern Ireland I mostly hear withdrawal with 2 syllables. Any time I've heard it from an English person giving it an intrusive r, it has sounded to me like with-drawr-ul.

  47. Ginger Yellow said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 7:05 am

    They're not homophonic for most british or irish speakers (even without the intrusive r,

    They are for me, at least in casual speech. I have a typical middle class southern English accent. It's possible that if I were being particularly careful with my enunciation, there would be a difference between "-drawal" and "drawl", but in practice there isn't for me. They both come out "drorl" (non-rhotic, obviously).

  48. Steve F said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    Discussing pronunciation always opens a can of worms, and Ben Hemmens' comment, and my own response to it seem to have released some particularly wriggly ones. From the evidence of commenters here, it would seem that 'withdrawal' is trisyllabic with a final schwa for many but not all British English speakers, and disyllabic for most but not all US English speakers. For those for whom it is trisyllabic, most identify some sort of sound between the final two syllables, which isn't a 'w', but is hard to describe exactly – a 'weak glottal stop' is as close as I can get, but it's not quite right. The linking 'r' seems to be most common in Australian English, but I've definitely heard it in the UK too, though I don't use it myself. As to whether the 'th' is voiced or unvoiced, well, it's voiced for me (and if I'm not careful might easily lapse into the cockney 'wiv') but the pronunciation of 'th' is so varied in different accents that generalisation is probably impossible.

    As for non-US accents described as a drawl, there is at least one, but it's not British. I was exposed as a child to a particular Irish accent, which the speaker characterised as 'a Connemara Drawl', though for all I know it might have been more personal than regional.

  49. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    John F,

    ah yes, I can just hear it now in 2-syllabic glory in, for example, Ballymena.

    Wasn't thinking about that one.

    As to my credentials, from Dublin, lived in Scotland & there worked among people from: Lincolnshire, Oxford, Newcastle, Wrexham, Durham, Liverpool & Sheffield so although we were biochemists, there were protracted discussions of regional accents in the lab ;-).
    Later in Germany and since 95 in Austria. Now selfemployed as a translator. And a confirmed lazy narcissist.

  50. mollymooly said,

    January 12, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

    "with drawl" : "withdrawal" :: "reel" : "real"

    In my mental lexicon, there is an extra syllable in the deep form of the -al words, perhaps suggested by the spelling. This may be inaudible in the surface form. My Irish accent is rhotic with not-very-dark /l/. I don't know whether speakers with a broader Irish accent's fully clear /l/ would make more or less of a distinction than I do.

  51. martin said,

    January 14, 2011 @ 6:04 am

    In my SE English dialect (idiolect?), 'drawl' and '-drawal' aren't homophones because their stressed vowels are different. For me, 'drawl' has the vowel of 'board' and 'drawal' has the vowel of 'bored' (not homophones in my dialect). For me, '-drawal' also has a second syllable which can vary in pronunciation due to inconsistent L-vocalisation. Definitely no glottal stop, maybe an intrusive R or W, but for me the big difference is in the first vowel sound.

  52. maidhc said,

    January 15, 2011 @ 1:15 am

    Another example of a similar construction:

    This article

    contains this sentence:

    "Even though two of the four convictions have been reversed, Lord Black’s sentence could remain largely in tact."

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