How's your eggcorn-analysis professioncy?

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Brought to my attention by reader JS:


The mistake is common enough that both Google and Bing automatically correct searches to "proficiency". If you insist on "professioncy", many but not all of the examples seem to come from people who aren't native speakers of English. In some cases, the semantics seems to be moved in the direction of nominalizing professional rather than proficient, but in other cases it's hard to tell:

Immediate full time opening for experienced line cook for busy, fast paced Murray Hill restuarant. Breakfast experience and professioncy is a plus, must be flexible and have a great attitude. We are a DRUG FREE workplace. Please apply in person on MONDAY – FRIDAY. Crazy Egg 954 Edgewood Ave., Jacksonville. Pay will relate to experience and capibility. Team players only.

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21 Comments »

  1. Rob said,

    March 21, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    I would caution against the assumption that a Google spelling correction is an indication of commonality. Google "claims that it can even correct misspellings that have never been searched on before."
    http://searchengineland.com/google-bing-is-cheating-copying-our-search-results-62914

    I don't know if I believe it, but that is the claim.

    [(myl) It's certainly true that search engines follow the long-standing practice of spelling correction in looking for the likely source of letter strings that are not in their dictionary, or are sufficiently rare relative to the alternative. That's where "cupertinos" come from. And on reflection, I think this means that you're right about the lack of an inference in this case.]

  2. army1987 said,

    March 21, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

    They don't even have the same stressed vowel, unless I'm missing something.

  3. m.m. said,

    March 21, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

    But unstressed its quite schwafull.

  4. Stephen Nicholson said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 12:39 am

    Every time you guys post an eggcorn, it takes a few re-readings of the original material to figure out what's up. This time, I had to re-read the first few sentences of the post to figure out what to look for.

    Dyslexics of the world untie indeed.

  5. Nick said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 2:14 am

    @army1987 They don't have the same stressed vowel, but as we've seen countless times on Language Log, it is not uncommon for /ɪ/ and /ɛ/ to become merged or even just confused, especially by L2 speakers and depending on the dialect of English.

  6. C Thornett said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 2:20 am

    Off topic, I know, but as a teacher of ESOL in an adult education service who has to justify her existence by ridiculous amounts of paperwork for every lesson, every technique, every resource, every class activity, every student, along with regular OFSTED inspections, the lack of standards for commercial language schools in the UK is a sore point.

  7. D.O. said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 2:30 am

    Maybe everyone noticed it, but I want to make it explicit: proficiency is written correctly on top of the page. Don't know what to make out of it.

  8. Steve said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 3:37 am

    Flicking through their website, I found one more similar mistake (not really an eggcorn) that suggests a non-native speaker :

    comments -> commits

    (see it here: http://bit.ly/igN6Mc)

    I really doubt any native-speaker would make that mistake ('comments'->'commence', I could believe, but you'd think an L1 speaker. would at least hear an unreleased nasal stop before the 't' in 'comments' – of course I'd be happy to be corrected by speakers of varieties where this is a plausible native-speaker mistake)

    Can any speakers of Arabic help with the following?

    The site these gems were found in is mostly about English classes for arabic-speakers. So are these mistakes consistent with an Arabic native-speaker's phonology?
    1) Are /ɪ/ and /ɛ/ not contrastive in Arabic?
    2) Arabic syllable structure is maximally /CVCC/, right? But is /nt/ not allowed? Why might the author of this august instution's website miss that /n/?

    Very interesting post, thanks to JS for the find!

    P.S. I can't believe these guys are taking money to teach English.

  9. stormboy said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 3:57 am

    The logo looks like it's been ripped off from the British Council.

  10. Steve said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 3:58 am

    Oops… I forgot a widely known (in the UK, at any rate) example with 'nt'…

    bint بنت

    At least, the romanisation has 'nt'. How's that actually pronounced in Arabic?

  11. a George said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 4:32 am

    @D.O.: you are in good company: Stephen Nicholson and yours truly had the same trouble. It is a matter of reading pattern; a plot of your eye movements would show how you read a page, and we have all avoided the last complete line of text, in blue, following a small colour wheel. We are the suckers.

  12. Duncan said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 6:04 am

    @Steve

    Arabic speaker here. I'm afraid this might be more mystifying than clarifying, but here goes.

    1) No, Arabic doesn't contrast them. Dismissing changes of quality for length and surrounding consonants, Standard Arabic only has three basic contrastive vowels, /a/, /u/, and /i/. However, most dialects have contrast both /o/ and /e/ with these other vowels, and the vowel difficulties you find with second-language speakers with Arabic as a first language are usually related to length (feet vs. fit) than quality.

    2) /nt/ is an allowed syllable ending, and bint بنت is indeed pronounced /bɪnt/. Standard Arabic has very strict rules on consonant clusters: no more than two consonants can ever come together. Again, this is in no way true of the Arabic dialects (some of which have prodigious consonant clusters), and anyway I'd assume that the natural assimilation of /nts/ would be /ns/ rather than /ts/.

    So basically, I have no idea how this ended up like that.

  13. richard howland-bolton said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 6:11 am

    and note the url in the cartouche at the top: http://www.academy-uk.net
    I bet there's a whole Mediterranean between them and Britain!

    [(myl) The associated IP address, 65.254.92.27, appears to be associated with the domain ecommerce.com in Columbus, Ohio.]

  14. richard howland-bolton said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 6:14 am

    WP added that "http://"—I know I didn't.

  15. GeorgeW said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 6:46 am

    Steve: It probably isn't appropriate to explain Arabic syllable structure here. But, CVCC is allowed and occurs often in the so-called pausal form (no suffixes marking case). And, [nt] is allowed as you later note in words like bint (girl).

    /ɪ/ and /ɛ/ are not contrastive in Arabic. Arabic has a relatively simple inventory of vowels.

  16. GeorgeW said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 6:49 am

    Duncan: Sorry, I didn't see your comments before I hit submit. I wrote my comment and went to walk the dogs then submitted.

  17. Just another Peter said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

    Would the comments->commits error possibly be a Cupertino? We've established that the Arabic speaker who wrote this stuff probably has a i/e merger, so if they wrote "commints" and ran it through a spell-check it might get "corrected" to commits (although why they didn't run the page in the OP through a spell-check, I have no idea).

  18. GeorgeW said,

    March 22, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

    J.A. Peter: My "Word" spell checker gave 'commits' as one of the suggestions for 'commints.' So, your idea is certainly possible.

    (And so did my Google checker when I checked this comment)

  19. Lugubert said,

    March 23, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    Having read the correct "proficiency", I didn't catch the error, but concentrated on "Registration Applicant", with each word under the corresponding Arabic, for what I think is "Application Registration".

  20. Darlo Paul said,

    April 18, 2011 @ 5:11 am

    The phone book for Darlington and the Dales used to carry the entry

    Dyslexia Institute, see Dyslexia Institute

  21. Darlo Paul said,

    April 18, 2011 @ 5:16 am

    That should have read

    Dislexia Institute, see Dyslexia Institute

    My predictive text entry facility "corrected" it

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