Another milestone for "eggcorn"

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Eggcorn, that most successful of Language Log's neoLogisms, has entered another major dictionary. Back in September 2010, I reported that eggcorn had been included in the latest updates to the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as the dictionaries available at Oxford Dictionaries Online (New Oxford American Dictionary on the US side and the Oxford Dictionary of English on the UK side). The latest dictionary to jump on the eggcorn bandwagon is the American Heritage Dictionary, the fifth edition of which was released this week. Here's the entry that's available on their new website:

egg·corn (ĕg kôrn)
n.
A series of words that result from the misunderstanding of a word or phrase as some other word or phrase having a plausible explanation, as free reign for free rein, or to the manor born for to the manner born (from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet).

I especially appreciate the "plausible explanation" part of the definition, since that was a key element missing from the Oxford entries.

But wait, there's more!

The above entry is what appears on AHD's free website, but if you buy the print dictionary or the app for mobile devices (a subscription to which is included when you buy the print dictionary), you get extra features, including etymological notes. Here's the etymology given for eggcorn:

Coined by Geoffrey K. Pullum (born 1945), British-born American linguist (eggcorn being an eggcorn for acorn, taken as egg + corn)

That's another improvement over the Oxford Dictionaries entries, since the coiner is given explicit credit. On September 30, 2003, a week after Mark Liberman wrote a post about acorn being reinterpreted as egg corn, he added an update:

Geoff Pullum suggests that if no suitable term already exists for cases like this, we should call them "egg corns", in the metonymic tradition of "mondegreen", since the eponymous solution of "malapropism" and "spoonerism" is not appropriate.

Geoff then elaborated on his coinage in a post a month later, and the rest is history.

I'll have my full appraisal of AHD5 in this Sunday's Boston Globe Ideas section. [Update: It's here.] In the meantime, you can hear American Heritage executive editor Steve Kleinedler interviewed about the dictionary on WBUR's "Here and Now" with Robin Young. Steve and Robin discuss Geoff Pullum's coinage of eggcorn and also touch on the recent New York Times Book Review essay by our other Geoff (Nunberg), "When a Dictionary Could Outrage."

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48 Comments »

  1. Kylopod said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

    How does this differ from a folk etymology?

    [(bgz) That's a question that has come up from the very beginning. For starters, check out Arnold Zwicky's Nov. '03 post, "Lady Mondegreen says her peace about eggcorns."]

  2. John Lawler said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    While I'm pleased to see that it's noticing new words, I am unpleased to note that the new, improved, up-to-the-minute, scientifically and linguistically erudite AHD5 still uses the stupid, non-standard, non-phonetic symbols for pronunciation which Noah Webster invented before Western phonetics got started, and which every generation of Americans since have failed to master.

    I mean, Really. (ĕg′ kôrn′) indeed.
    'ɛɡ'kʰorn, with or without the aspiration, does the job without fiddly accents that nobody every gets right. There are not, after all, just five vowels in English that nevertheless get pronounced in fifteen ways each.

    Merriam-Webster published Kenyon and Knott in 1953. 60 years later, American dictionaries still haven't adopted or adapted, though the rest of the world has. Look at the pronunciation cited in any bilingual dictionary. But Americans are too stupid to use it, as our dictionaries believe. Details at http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/modestproposal.pdf

  3. Lugubert said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

    To me, a folk etymology is a deliberate but erroneous effort to explain an existing word. An eggcorn just happens as a new creation, not intended to explain existing words, but can be explained as a misunderstanding of existing words.

  4. Steve Kleinedler said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

    I've responded to John Lawler previously, and my answer hasn't changed over the years. The fact remains that most American audiences cannot follow the IPA. Additionally, the IPA is a phonetic key — each symbol is keyed to one speech sound. The American population has a widely diverse phonemic map, and a phonemic key keys their particular vowel space to a particular symbol.

    The late great James McCawley once remarked on how American loathe "funny" symbols. We do make one concession to use the schwa, with a lot of explanation. It's a lot easier to explain to an American to pronounce an e with a breve over it like you do the 'e' in 'bet' than it is to introduce the IPA.

    The IPA is widely used across the world, but, like the Metric system, it is not something that the American population by and large has been exposed to.

    – Steve

  5. Steve Kleinedler said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

    Also, Ben, thank you for your kind words!

    - Steve

  6. Steve Kleinedler said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    (Personally, I am a fan of the IPA — so much so that I have the IPA vowel space tattooed on my back. I just recognize that it's not practical for most American audiences.)

    (Ben's brother Carl has a book coming out this week, Science Ink, with lush photographs of geeky science tattoos. This one is in there. Pick yourself up a copy of this, as well!)

  7. mgh said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

    are there other examples of major dictionaries using a word as part of its own etymology? ("eggcorn is an eggcorn for acorn")

  8. CLP said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    The OED indirectly gives Geoff Pullum credit by quoting Mark Liberman's post.

    About the IPA issue: If I'm just looking up a word in the dictionary to learn how to pronounce it, a written pronunciation isn't very helpful to me, compared to an audio recording of someone saying the word. It seems to me that the best solution, at least for electronic dictionaries, would be provide the IPA transcription along with an audio recording of a person saying the word (maybe multiple recordings from people with different accents). A side effect would be that people would become more familiar with IPA, as they see the symbols and hear them pronounced at the same time.

  9. mollymooly said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

    dictionary.com allows users to toggle between IPA and respelling pronunciations. Whatever about the print edition of AHD, the online edition could do the same with little extra effort.

  10. dw said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

    @Steve Kleinedler:

    It's a lot easier to explain to an American to pronounce an e with a breve over it like you do the 'e' in 'bet' than it is to introduce the IPA.

    I don't follow this. Why is

    * Pronounce ĕ like the "e" in "bet"

    any easier to understand (for Americans or anyone else) than

    * Pronounce ɛ like the "e" in "bet"?

    This could only be true if there were a widely-understood convention among American audiences that ĕ represents the sound of "bet". But, in fact, among the US dictionaries represented on this Wikipedia page, the AHD is the only one to use ĕ for this vowel! Merriam-Webster and Random House are both reported to use plain e.

    Is the decision to stick with this notation in the AHD based on some kind of research (commercial or otherwise) or just gut instinct? Do you think that this will change in future, for example as a result of the IPA-based diaphonemic pronunciation notation used in Wikipedia?

  11. Mark F. said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

    Is the phonemic map in the US any more diverse than that in the UK?

    Having said that, I will also say that the IPA is a lot harder for me than typical US dictionary symbols. And I'm a linguistics fan.

    In the UK, do schools teach the IPA at all? As I child I was taught the most common US dictionary pronunciation markings, (although I don't think my son was). That might explain why I find them more comfortable. But people are highly resistant to learning new alphabets, so it really surprises me that Brits get much out of the IPA respellings unless they actually were taught something about them as kids.

  12. GeorgeW said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

    @Steve Kleinedler: "The IPA is widely used across the world, but, like the Metric system, it is not something that the American population by and large has been exposed to."

    Really, the general public around the non-American world?

  13. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    @CLP: a written pronunciation isn't very helpful to me, compared to an audio recording

    I tend to disagree. Many dictionaries use existing databases of recordings, resulting in multiple speakers reading the pronunciations. Even though the speakers are supposed to be professional (at least in respectable dictionary publications), there is usually quite some variability in each vowel, not to mention other idiosyncrasies, and varying quality of the recordings (yes, even in 2011).

    This is particularly unwelcome in the EFL market, where the users may face perception problems ("what the **** was that mumbled thing"). Transcription of some sort is a very important element; to tell you the truth, if I have the choice of transcription only or audio only, I will always prefer transcription. (I actually own two dictionaries from a respectable British publisher that are accessed from the same interface; when I need the pronunciation, I always select the one that gives transcription.)

    All a good transcription system needs is a reasonable list of keywords (such as Wells's keywords). Doesn't have to be IPA.

  14. Ø said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    As observed by Pullum and Liberman eight years ago, the term "eggcorn" is an eggcorn, just as the term "mondegreen" is a mondegreen. It would be natural to invent a term to help us talk about this pattern. Let's say that "eggcorn" and "mondegreen" are two examples of metanyms, but "malaprop" (because it is not an example of a malaprop) is not a metanym. You get the idea: "X" is a metanym if and only if "X" is an X. So "metanym" is a metanym if and only if "metanym" is a metanym. But is it or isn't it?

    (The term "metanym" is mine, but this peculiar consequence, or lack of consequence, of its definition was invented by my teenage son.)

  15. Steve Kleinedler said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

    The AHD uses the breve to indicate short vowels and macrons to indicate long ones. The distinction between short and long vowels is a useful one and taught in phonics, and that's something we represent in our phonemic system.

    One could argue that by using the unmarked 'e' in this phonemic system, you'd be confusing people who are used to using 'e' to mean IPA /e/, an entirely different sound. Using breves and macrons with vowels clearly distinguish them from the IPA system.

    It is the case there are numerous dialect areas in the UK. Their use of the IPA could be taken to imply only one true pronunciation (ostensibly what might be referred to as Received Pronunciation) instead of a range of them.

    It is the wish to avoid showing one phonetic form that American dictionaries use phonemic systems. If you were to use a phonetic form – whose dialect would you use? A Chicagoan? A New Yorker? A Bostonian? A Southerner? You would need many different pronunciations to capture all the regional varieties, and phonemic system cuts down on the clutter tremendously.

  16. Greg Morrow said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

    Could you use the Wells Lexical Sets to define the vowel symbols? (Since they're the problematic ones.) Regardless of how your local English pronounces "dress", you put a symbol, say "as E in DRESS", and only the dimmest reader could not reliably pronounce the symbol.

  17. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    @Ø: I think that's a confusing name for it, because it's homophonous with the existing word "metonym" (cf. "metonymy"). The names that I've heard for your concept are "autonym" and "autological word". (Unfortunately, "autonym" also has other meanings.)

  18. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    @Steve Kleinedler: use of the IPA could be taken to imply only one true pronunciation

    Well, that would apply only to those of your users who are familiar with the alleged universal meaning of IPA symbols*, or indeed the cardinal vowels. Otherwise (i.e. for a vast majority of users), it's just another respelling system if matched with a set of keywords.

    (*) At the phonemic level shown in dictionaries, the "universality" of IPA is of course a myth. English /i:/ is not the same as German /i:/, and German /a:/ is not the same as Dutch /a:/, etc. If you want to describe specific pronunciations, the sound value of each symbol needs to be described anyway. But this is also a strength of IPA-based systems, to an extent, because if you respell, English /i:/ ends up as e.g. with a macron, but German /i:/ doesn't.

  19. David L said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    I'm puzzled by the definition of eggcorn as "a series of words," since some eggcorns — for example, eggcorn — are just one word. Unless it's implicit that 'series' includes the case N=1, which would be as cryptic to most readers as the IPA.

  20. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

    @George W: Really, the general public around the non-American world [use IPA]?

    Of course not. But at least those people ([tens of?] millions) who have used EFL materials from any of the four major UK publishers will have seen IPA as used for English.

    Also, pronunciation dictionaries and resources for many other languages are overwhelmingly done using IPA-based systems (even though, as I said in the previous comment, that isn't always unequivocally helpful). E.g., on my bookshelf, I have the pronunciation Duden for German, a handbook of Dutch and English pronunciation, a bilingual Swedish dictionary, a Portuguese phrasebook (sic!), and even a pronunciation dictionary of Afrikaans* (sic!), and they all use IPA-derived systems. Helps quite a bit.

    (*) I have also used an Afrikaans pronunciation dictionary that used respelling. Even though Afrikaans spelling is so phonemic that you might wonder why one needs a pronunciation dictionary at all, the respelling has caused me some headache.

  21. Rubrick said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

    Congratulations to Geoff, and thanks to Ben for posting about it instead of him so we could offer our congratulations in comments!

    The question of what pronunciation alphabet to use in dictionaries seems likely to become increasingly moot in the next couple of decades, as having a dictionary in a form where you can't just listen to the pronunciation will become increasingly rare.

    I guess "snowclone" and "crash blossom" have some catching up to do.

  22. David said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

    I've often wondered about the inclusion of "eggcorn" in the OED. I don't want to argue against its inclusion as such in any way, but I've had a suspicion it was fast-tracked as a linguistic word. To take another example, I've twice contacted OED about the word "floorball", with my first e-mail about the word being sent maybe two years ago, but so far it's not been included. It's a much more common word in English: "eggcorn" gets 174000 Ghits, and "floorball" 5.5 million. It's also been around for much longer, at least since the 1980s (the International Floorball Federation was founded in 1986). However, while it can be reasonably surmised that the majority of people who use the word "eggcorn" are native English-speakers living in English-speaking countries, the vast majority of people who use the word "floorball" are non-English speakers, living in non-English-speaking countries, who use the word when speaking English as a lingua franca.

    I don't mean to accuse the OED of some kind of linguistic or other form of racism or deliberate discrimination. Rather, my hypothesis is that "floorball" has slipped under the radar, because that radar is geared to publications from English-speaking countries. In other words, it's probably harder for the editors to detect words that are primarily being used by non-native speakers of English, especially in countries where English does not have any official status. This is obviously a problem, since we must expect more coinages like "floorball" to arise due to the lingua franca status of English: English words that are being coined by non-native speakers of English who need to communicate among themselves in English about things that are of little concern for people who are native speakers of English.

    (Floorball, BTW, is a team sport somewhat like a floor version of ice hockey. It's played professionally in Sweden and Finland, but is almost completely non-existent in English-speaking countries. There are plenty of clips on Youtube, one example is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j22uVGzHR5w&feature=related.)

  23. dw said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

    @Steve Kleinedler:

    It is the wish to avoid showing one phonetic form that American dictionaries use phonemic systems.

    The IPA can be, and is, used phonemically as well as phonetically. As I'm sure you know, this is the case whenever it is used in dictionary transcriptions. This is no argument for the AHD system.

  24. Theodore said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    Jarek Weckwerth said,

    @CLP: a written pronunciation isn't very helpful to me, compared to an audio recording
    I tend to disagree.

    I do as well. When we hear a new word in a natural setting, it is in the context of the speaker's accent. Single-word audio pronunciations eliminate this context.

    Steve Kleinedler said,

    One could argue that by using the unmarked 'e' in this phonemic system, you'd be confusing people who are used to using 'e' to mean IPA /e/, an entirely different sound. Using breves and macrons with vowels clearly distinguish them from the IPA system.

    I suppose that's possible, but since this is (or at least was, in my childhood) taught in elementary school, I think a better explanation is that an unmarked vowel has some implicit interpretation which may be wrong. The diacritics are included in the spirit of making everything explicit.

  25. Ø said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

    @Ran: I know. My "metanym" is meant to be a little pun on "meta-" and "metonym". I don't mind too much if my word is confusing, because the whole point of my post is a sort of mind-bending.

    I think that my notion is narrower than that of "autonym", but I didn't really spell it out. And if I do spell it out, then my point (if any) will undoubtedly fall apart under closer scrutiny.

  26. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    I don't have good stats to hand, but I would wager a modest amount that a substantial majority of native-born Americans under the age of say 50 who are high school graduates were taught the rudiments of the metric system somewhere along the way. We just don't like it. It's the Esperanto of measurement systems, and we prefer our natural language as it has evolved over the centuries.

  27. Sevly said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    Were Steve arguing in support of the spelling-based system used by Dictionary.com, where ee, for example, is used to represent /i/, then his points would be valid. Only then can one argue that Americans, and indeed laypeople in general, are more familiar with and can more easily understand the pronunciation being conveyed. As it is, though, my non-linguistic friends have just as much trouble deciphering ĕg′ kôrn′ as they do /ˈɛgˌkɔrn/, although most can get the gist of the spelled pronunciation eg-kawrn. The only difference between the two first options is that one is an in-house system unrecognized by the larger linguistic community, whereas the other is natural to those with even basic linguistic training. Given that neither of the two systems can really cater to non-technical users, our best bet is to use the systems that are most well recognized in their domains. Include the spelling system for the general user, but use IPA where it counts. And of course there is no excuse for not including two pronunciation guides in electronic dictionaries.

    In response to the ridiculous notion that IPA can be used phonetically and phonetically only, I repeat dw's apparently earth-shocking remark that IPA is perfectly good for phonemic transcription. Indeed, the level of detail given in any transcription can vary from the broad, language-level transcription that is customarily enclosed in /slashed/, and the more detailed dialectal or idiolectal transcription given in [brackets]. 'Nuff said.

  28. Rob P. said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

    @David – that's simply called floor hockey or street hockey in my experience in the US. There's no pro league, but lots of kids play.

  29. mgh said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    David and Rob P., sounds to me like broomball which is in the OED

  30. Mark Mandel said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    One relevant point about the names "mondegreen" and "eggcorn" that I'd hoped to see mentioned here was that they follow in a long tradition going back at least to Pāṇini, in which the name for certain classes of compounds was itself an example of that class, selected apparently at random from the class, with no semantic relationship to its newly-coined definition as taxonym. Quoting (and slightly editing) from Wikipedia:

    • A bahuvrihi compound (from Sanskrit बहुव्रीहि, bahuvrīhi, literally meaning "possessing much rice") is a type of compound that denotes a referent by specifying a certain characteristic or quality the referent possesses. …
    The term bahuvrihi was first used by Sanskrit grammarians, and is a specific Sanskrit example: a compound consisting of bahu (much) and vrihi (rice); the compound denotes a rich man, one who has "much rice".

    • In Sanskrit grammar a tatpuruṣa (तत्पुरुष) compound is a dependent determinative compound, i.e. a compound XY meaning a type of Y which is related to X in a way corresponding to one of the grammatical cases of X.
    There are many tatpuruṣas (one for each of the noun cases, and a few others besides); in a tatpuruṣa, one component is related to another. For example, "doghouse" is a dative compound, a house for a dog…. The most frequent kind is the genitive tatpuruṣa. …
    The word "tatpuruṣa" is an example of the type: tat-puruṣa = "that-man" in the sense of "that person's man".

  31. Randy Hudson said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 8:07 pm

    The SOED app tells me that "cosy" is pronounced 'kəʊzi, and "efforce", ɪ'fɔ:s — I'll just say that wouldn't be my approach to most of those vowels.

  32. Avinor said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

    Rob P and mgh:

    That's like saying that US professional baseball is the same thing as Swedish Brännboll:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5RrlPd96XY

  33. Nathan said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    @Sevly: I'm pretty comfortable with the IPA, but using eg-kawrn as a transcription strikes me as just plain wrong. I realize there are a lot of people who have a low vowel in corn, but my (rhotic, caught=cot) dialect doesn't; it's [koɹn]. I have never minded the non-IPA systems, just as long as they are defined clearly, used consistently, and try to be phonemic (so they aren't ridiculously far from my pronunciation).

  34. bfwebster said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

    Language Log: one of the few blogs where the comments are even geekier and often more technical than the original post. Love this place. ..bruce..

  35. Andy Averill said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

    @David L, I think that's a good question — I wonder if one of the contributors here could answer it? (Maybe not, this is late in the thread.)

    It doesn't seem to me that the word eggcorn in fact qualifies as an eggcorn, since it's not a normal word substituted by mistake. But in Arnold Zwicky's 2003 post that Ben referred to earlier, egg corn is written as two words, in which case it would qualify. I suspect it got mashed into one word at some later point.

  36. dw said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

    Must an eggcorn be homophonous with the word it replaces?

    "Egg corn" and "acorn" are clearly distinct in my accent, and, to the best of my knowledge, in the accents of the great majority of English speakers. I can believe that there are some speakers with the "egg"-"vague" merger for whom they might be homophonous. However I would be surprised if Geoff Pullum were among them.

  37. mollymooly said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 8:44 am

    Is there any existing dictionary that attempts an that represents a lexical-set IPA transcription, as opposed to a merely phonemic one? How would one select different symbols for TRAP BATH and PALM, or for LOT CLOTH and THOUGHT?

    It seems significant to me that the only British dictionary which still eschews IPA is Chambers', whose respelling key accommodates the accent of its Scottish origins as well as RP.

  38. Mark F. said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 9:18 am

    dw – My impression is that eggcorns typically aren't homophonous with the correct term, even though they can be. The eggcorn database (http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/) has lots of examples like "chuck it up to" for "chalk it up to". I think people fool themselves into hearing it a certain way because it's the most plausible explanation they can think of for what the people must be saying.

    When someone tells me their name and it's an unfamiliar one to me, I always ask how it's spelled just so I can say it right.

    Incidentally, the word "eggcorn" will have really made it when the Firefox spellchecker quits wiggly underlining it.

  39. AmyEmilia said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    I read many insurance claim reports as part of my job. One of the claim descriptions was: "She slipped and fell on a large pile of eggcorns." Of course, I knew what the writer meant to say. But that is how I ended up here, after a Google-search. Thanks for an interesting post!

  40. Paolo said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 11:00 am

    Rubrick said

    The question of what pronunciation alphabet to use in dictionaries seems likely to become increasingly moot in the next couple of decades, as having a dictionary in a form where you can't just listen to the pronunciation will become increasingly rare.

    Well, I don’t agree with that, at least not if the dictionary is meant to be used also by non-native speakers. I am Italian and although I am proficient in English, I still find it hard to discriminate between some English vowel sounds as I wasn’t exposed to them as a child.  I simply cannot hear the difference and need to see them written down with IPA to try and reproduce them correctly. For example, I say  /ruːt/ and  /fʊt/ correctly – I think – but to me they sound exactly the same.

  41. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    @mollymooly: Is there any existing dictionary that attempts an that represents a lexical-set IPA transcription

    In a sense, Wikipedia does this, and the system is of course largely based on Wells's keywords. But of course the actual usage in actual entries fluctuates ;)

    The only approach is to have a maximally distinctive set of symbols (not necessarily IPA, of course), and tell the user to ignore distinctions that they don't have in their own speech, based on those keywords. It has the same shortcoming as all the other transcription systems: the user has to read the introduction, and do some thinking…

    @ Paolo & Theodore: Thank you for your support ;) Having recordings only is really unhelpful in many cases.

  42. Army1987 said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    Is there any existing dictionary that attempts an that represents a lexical-set IPA transcription, as opposed to a merely phonemic one?

    Wikipedia attempts to do that, except it doesn't have a symbol for BATH and CLOTH, giving a transcription with the symbol for TRAP and one with PALM for the former, and one with LOT and one with TOUGHT for the latter.

  43. Goggolor said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

    I'm just waiting for cromulent to make it into the OED. Fingers crossed!

  44. dw said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

    @mollymooly:

    Edith Skinner's Speak With Distinction (an unashamedly prescriptive work that forms the basis of the American Theater Standard stage dialect that used to be, and in some cases still is, used at American schools or drama) uses æ for TRAP, a for BATH and ɑː for PALM. By accident or design, it separates most of the 24 lexical sets, the only mergers being LOT/CLOTH and NORTH/FORCE.

  45. Ben Hemmens said,

    November 4, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    Well, congratulations.

    I'm tempted to wish that all linguistic terminology were as easily memorable / learnable.

    But I suppose it's impossible for every term in a given set to be equally good. I mean, if everything else were as easy as "eggcorn", it would fade into the background, wouldn't it?

    I've recently done a first (not very studious) reading of A Student's Introduction to English Grammar. Now firstly I'd like to say I appreciate not only the serendipitous "eggcorn" but also Huddleston and Pullum's labours in straightening out much more mundane terms and concepts. Having them sorted out so that they make sense of the facts, and having obsolete and confusing ones weeded out, is all the more to be appreciated precisely because many of them probably, for most people, will never be a barrel of fun to learn.

    The other curious impression I have is that I feel I might find the ideas easier to remember if I had read the undiluted GGEL rather than the condensed student's version. Maybe my brain no longer works like a typical student's but I think some of these things might stick better if they were hung on longer and grittier stories.

    I probably won't get around to it soon because the things I really need to read up on are not really grammar itself but much more the spectrum of information packaging, pragmatics and style, all of these comparatively between German and English. But at least a fleeting basic tour of grammar was necessary, and I'm grateful for having it served up so straightforwardly.

  46. LDavidH said,

    November 5, 2011 @ 9:04 am

    Just agreeing with some of the other comments: as an ESL speaker, I often need to see a new word written down to make sure I say it right, even after all my English family members have pronounced it loudly and clearly. In my case, I can't always hear the difference between /s/ and /z/, nor between short -u- and -a- (as in but and bat) – we're speaking BrEng here. For years I couldn't tell if "suss (it out)" rhymed with "us "or "ass"!

  47. joanne salton said,

    November 9, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    It is certainly true that the professional jargon of linguists is included more readily than the professional jargon of other better known professions. I'm not entirely sure that I vote for "floorball" in the common household dictionary, but I'm afraid I cannot support "eggcorn".

  48. DMajor said,

    November 15, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

    Congratulations! Mighty yolks from little eggcorns grow.

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