Judge mental

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A charming eggcorn on a Yahoo! answers page — one that involves writing what is really a single word as a sequence two separate words:

My friends have been being really judge mental lately, i need advice?

Kay so my best friends i have known and been friends with for about 2 years now, are being really judge mental around me lately. . .

It's a classic eggcorn: the utterer clearly has a theory about the word judgmental, namely that it means mental (i.e., sick in the head, half crazy) over judging people. The theory isn't too outlandish (haven't you known people who seem almost mental in the way they judge everyone?). The theory has the right phonological consequences but entails a wrong decision about how the word should be spelled. And the wrongness would never have had any consequences if there hadn't come a day when the person had to write the word for others to see. With an eggcorn, the pronunciation is fine, it's the spelling that outs you.

Don't laugh at people who commit eggcorn errors. Eggcorns, as I remarked once before, shouldn't be thought of as stemming from ignorance. They are shaped by knowledge of language, not by the lack of it. A person who didn't know English at all would never come up with an eggcorn.

Tom Goodwillie wrote to me with this comment:

C. S. Lewis, in his book Studies in Words, wrote about a student who ingeniously misinterpreted the word "physical" in reading an older text. In context "it is not physical" meant "it is not good medicine", but the student guessed that it meant "it is mental(=crazy)". The book is about shifting senses of words, and it is partly about the challenge of recognizing when a recently dominant sense of a word is interfering with one's understanding of an older text.


P.S. I enjoy your LL posts, especially the humor in them, including the jokes about not allowing comments; but I can't help confessing that I am also irritated by not being allowed to comment!

And George Amis writes to report this observation:

The egg corn form is pretty rare, but there are various Judge Mentals — a DJ, a number of bloggers, an obscure Thrash Metal band from the nineties that seems to have been made up of twelve-year-olds, a character in a video game, etc. "Judge Mental" seems to appeal to people as a kind of joke.

Perhaps such joke uses influenced the young person who submitted the question to Yahoo! Answers.

[Why on earth do people think I'm hostile to comments? Beats me. People are so strange. Not you, of course; it's other people that are strange.]

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