Archive for Eggcorns

Taylor Swift fanilect

By now I must have listened to Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" a hundred times.  The first fifty times I heard a crucial line in it as "Got only Starbucks lovers" or "Not only Starbucks lovers", and it was driving me crazy because I couldn't make sense of it.  Sometimes I forced myself to believe that she was saying "Got only starcrossed lovers", but that didn't make sense either.  Then, on December 4, 2014, I read Mark Liberman's "All the lonely Starbucks lovers" on Language Log, and I learned — much to my astonishment — that, according to the lyrics, she was supposedly saying — repeatedly in the song — "Got a long list of ex-lovers".  Still today, after listening to the song and watching the video countless more times, plus reading the printed lyrics, I hear her sing "Got / Not only Starbucks lovers", never "Got a long list of ex-lovers".

Thus I am simultaneously assailed by multiple Taylor Swift mondegreens and polyphonic earworms ("trouble, trouble, trouble; shake, shake, shake it off").

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Rapid / rabid b'ball fans

A colleague recently called my attention to "rapid b’ball fans".  Carol Kennedy remarked to me that what the colleague intended was "rabid b’ball fans".  Carol noted further that her father, Leigh Lisker, an experimental phonetician and specialist on Telugu who was in the departments of linguistics and South Asian Regional Studies at Penn and was also affiliated as a research scientist at Haskins Laboratories, used "rapid" and "rabid" over and over again when he was exploring voice onset times, etc.

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Rein and reign

The word rein, which the OED glosses as "A long narrow strap, frequently of leather, attached to the bridle or bit of a horse or other animal on either side of the head and used by a rider or driver to control and guide the animal", was apparently borrowed into English from French a millennium ago. The Wiktionary entry gives the etymology in detail:

From Middle English rein, reyne, borrowed from Anglo-Norman reyne, resne, from early Medieval Latin retina, ultimately from Classical Latin retineō (“hold back”), from re- + teneō (“keep, hold”). Compare modern French rêne.

Displaced native Old English ġewealdleþer (literally “control leather”).

But the OED entry makes an interesting (apparent) mistake in this case — the full etymology seems good, but the "Origin" line gives the French etymon as regne — and règne (in the modern spelling) is actually French for "kingdom", from Latin rēgnum, which is the origin of a different English word, namely reign.

Rein and reign have been pronounced the same way in English for some time — perhaps always? — and their meanings overlap in extended or figurative uses having to do with control. This led to some early eggcorns, even back in the days when most people had personal experience with physical reins. Thus the OED entry for free rein, glossed as "Freedom of action or expression. Chiefly in to give (a) free rein (to)", includes "free reign" citations going back to 1834:

1834 J. Eberle Treat. Dis. & Physical Educ. Children (ed. 2) i. i. 6 She, who giving a free reign [1833 (ed. 1) free rein] to her appetite, indulges it to excess.
1924 Times 26 Sept. 11/5 Others thought themselves above the law, and gave free reign to their passions.
1993 Outdoor Canada Mar. 33/3 So few pike survive to a large size that the ones who do have virtual free reign to raid the pantry.

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The review mirror

From a recent spam email:


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Stream of conscience


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"An unchartered situation for all of us"

Ed Silverman, "An unchartered situation for all of us’: From shipping containers to security concerns, a Covid-19 vaccine supply chain takes shape", STAT 9/8/2020 [emphasis added]:

The pandemic has prompted the U.S. government and others across the globe to secure huge numbers of doses from Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, who are pushing clinical trial timelines like never before in order to get their vaccines ready for use as soon as possible. One or more of these vaccines may be approved by regulators here and abroad in the months ahead.

The effort to distribute those vaccines has accelerated just as quickly. Just as container makers are squeezing more out of their production plants, vaccine makers are busy modeling transportation routes and storage conditions in many countries. Wholesalers are lining up warehouse space and trucks. And freight forwarders and airport managers are expanding security for what will immediately become the world’s hottest commodity.

“I’m more than 30 years in the business and thought I’d seen everything, but it’s an unchartered situation for all of us,” said Larry St. Onge, global life sciences and health care sector president at DHL, which provides a range of transportation services for pharmaceutical products. “The scale of the challenge is going to be very large and there will be a pressing need to eliminate bottlenecks.”

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Visual mondegreen?

[This is a guest post by Stephen Plant]

I came across 'connorant' the other day, as in “gannets, connorants, vultures” in Ulysses. It was on the Guardian website. In my Penguin copy of Ulysses (p 526) it's spelt 'cormorant' (perhaps editions differ?). There are a surprising number of references to 'connorant' on line. I suppose the Ulysses connorants have a common ancestor, but the word connorant crops up in scientific journals too — here and here.

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"This laptop is loaded to bear"

Ewan Spence, "Apple Leak Reveals Radical New MacBook Pro", Forbes 5/4/2020:

Apple may finally be getting round to updating the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel’s tenth generation processors. The good news is that the MacOS powered laptop going to get a bucketload of extra power.[…]

This laptop is loaded to bear in terms of memory and storage as well. The current 13-inch MacBook Pro can be upgraded to 16 GB of RAM and 2 TB of storage, so we’re looking at a doubling of the core specs.

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Profiteer rolls


Seen on a buffet table in Glasgow: "Profiteer Rolls" for "Profiteroles".

There are a fair number of other examples Out There, but not enough to merit a separate dictionary entry, much less to eclipse the original, as in the case of Jerusalem Artichokes.

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Mistranscription of the month

"Florida school shooting: Armed deputy on duty never went inside to confront gunman", Associated Press 2/22/2018:

The sheriff said he was "devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I've been to the funerals. I've been to the homes where they sit and shiver. I've been to the vigils. It's just, ah, there are no words."

"Correction: School Shooting-Florida story", Associated Press 2/26/2018:

In a story Feb. 22 about the Florida school shooting, The Associated Press misquoted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel in some versions of the story when he spoke about the families of the victims. He said, "I've been to their homes where they're sitting shiva," not "where they sit and shiver."

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Beggar thy neighbor's question

Piers Morgan, "The wife-beater, the witch and the White House: Why the hell did Trump ever tell Rob Porter and Omarosa ‘you’re hired’?", Daily Mail 2/13/2018:

'Shut the f**k up, a**hole,’ snarled Omarosa Manigault-Newman at me. ‘How are your kids going to feel when they wake up and discover their dad’s a f**king f*gg*t?’

Yes, this is the same Omarosa Manigault-Newman who just spent a year inside Donald Trump’s White House.

I’ve met a lot of vile human beings in my life, from dictators and terrorists to sex abusers and wicked conmen.

But I’ve never met anyone quite so relentlessly loathsome as Omarosa; a vicious, duplicitous, lying, conniving, backstabbing piece of work.

Which beggars the question: what the hell was she doing inside the world’s most powerful building for 12 months?

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A fowl of the rules

Jordain Carney, "House will have to vote for tax-cut bill again", TheHill 12/19/2017, originally included this sentence:

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also seized on the ruling immediately, saying Republicans in a "mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors" had ran a fowl of the chamber's rules.

I didn't get a screenshot in time, and it's now "had run afoul of the chamber's rules", so you'll have to take my word for the original version. It's not clear whether the original was an eggcorn or an autocorrect error or a Fay/Cutler malapropism.

[h/t Jonathan Falk]

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Belgian whistles

This one isn't in the Eggcorn Database, and doesn't seem to be mentioned in the forum either. [But googling the phrase is not recommended…]

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