"The travesty that is taking fold"

« previous post | next post »

Representative Mo Brooks on Fox News, commenting on the proposed impeachment-inquiry resolution:

I've yet to see the resolution, ((from)) I understand we probably won't see it until
uh later this week,
but if substantively it opens the doors
so that the American people can see the travesty that is taking fold,
then that's a good thing for the American people.

"Taking fold" seems to be a blend of "taking place" and "unfolding", with a bit of help from "taking hold". I have a feeling that there's a name for this kind of morphosyntactic mixture, but it doesn't come to mind at the moment.

I haven't been able to find any other examples of this particular locution, but perhaps a commenter will succeed where I've failed.



  1. DCBob said,

    October 28, 2019 @ 6:48 pm

    Might he also be folding in the idea of "taking hold?"

    [(myl) Absolutely — I've folded that suggestion in.]

  2. Ben Zimmer said,

    October 28, 2019 @ 9:31 pm

    I'm fine with just calling it an idiom blend. It's not rocket surgery, after all.

  3. Elizabeth said,

    October 28, 2019 @ 10:31 pm

    Is it a Malapropism? Reminds me of when my (Philadelphian) grandfather referred to a "bird sanitary".

  4. Andrew Usher said,

    October 28, 2019 @ 10:52 pm

    I note also that he stumbles a bit over 'substantive'. But no such stumbling occurs in 'taking hold'; that's clearly what his brain meant to say. But it is also clearly inadvertent; there's no way he would defend this use of 'taking fold' for 'taking place'. I wouldn't know what to call it. There don't seem to be names for most kinds of speech errors, so I'm reckoning it's not a gap the needs filling that much.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

    [(myl) Yes:

    He introduces the /l/ from "-ly" of "substantively" in the middle of the "-iv-" syllable:

    I though about putting this in the transcript but couldn't think of a way to do it that wouldn't be confusing.
    In IPA form it's something like



  5. PaulB said,

    October 28, 2019 @ 11:06 pm

    Since it shares some of the switching and blending qualities of a spoonerism, I wonder if we might push the cutlery a little harder and call it a brain-spork? There's also the bare-naked option as in eg 'that sentence came out completely sporked', or 'he went for a metaphor, but sporked it'.

  6. Stephen Hart said,

    October 28, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

    Is it just the recency illusion that makes me wonder why politicians these days can't speak English?

  7. Vilinthril said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 3:18 am

    It's a minor point, but at “(((from)))” I hear a very quick “from (wh)at” instead.

    [(myl) Yeah, me too. But after zeroing in on it with a DAW and listening several times, I decided that the "what" was a perceptual illusion helping to make sense of the "from" — and even the "from ? I" sequence is highly reduced:

    Though probably Mr. Brooks did mean to produce a highly reduced "from what I understand", so maybe the transcription should be ((from what))…]

  8. Vilinthril said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 7:22 am

    Yeah, isolated like that, I can't really make it out any longer, so you're very likely right.

  9. JJM said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 7:56 am

    I guess we'll just have to wait and see how events unhold.

  10. shubert said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 8:05 am

    "Anti-" in my dictionary is… /-ti/ , what i heard is /-tai/.
    Which is correct?

    >[(myl) Either one: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/anti-#Pronunciation ]

  11. Sally Thomason said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 2:51 pm

    There is a standard term in the analogic change literature for this kind of speech error — or rather, two terms: contamination, or blend. This example is a syntactic equivalent of lexical contaminations like smog (smoke + fog, of course no longer a speech error), frog (frost + fog, a speech error I once heard from a weather broadcaster), and delou (delay + ado; I once heard someone say, at the end of his spiel introducing a guest speaker, "And so, without further delou, I give you X Y"). Years ago I sent a class of students out to collect speech errors, and to my surprise, contaminations were by far the most common errors they heard, way ahead of more "ordinary" types like "irrevelant" or "If company dropped in, would you worry about your toilet boil being clean?".

  12. Bob Ladd said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 4:49 pm

    @Sally Thomason: I thought smog was a deliberate coinage?

  13. Vulcan With a Mullet said,

    October 30, 2019 @ 12:39 pm

    You can hold a thing
    And fold that thing,
    You can unhold a thing
    So that thing then unfolds,
    You can unfold a thing
    While it's still in hold,
    But you can't unfold
    Something that is unhold.

    Just a spontaneous linguistic musing that came out as an accidental poem of sorts. You might call it an unfolding of the idea.

  14. Vulcan With a Mullet said,

    October 30, 2019 @ 12:40 pm

    Whoops… should have been "unheld" which messes up the rhyme

  15. Rodger C said,

    October 31, 2019 @ 6:53 am

    Þæt dyde unhold man.

RSS feed for comments on this post