Boroughing into our subconscious

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From "Why Does Everyone Hate Nickelback?", Medium 4/15/2021:

This was before Netflix, or even taping shows to watch later, so people were being repeatedly told that Nickelback is awful for three years, which boroughed its way into many people’s subconscious.

A quick web search didn't turn up any other examples of burrowed spelled "boroughed" — commenters may persevere and do better. There are a fair number of intentional uses of boroughed as a punny form of "borrowed": the title of a 2020 book review "Boroughed Time" ("Confronting a long tradition of projecting fantasies onto the South Bronx"); a 2002 newspaper article "On Boroughed Time – Style, Romance and Soul Food in Bed-Stuy"; and "Old, New, Boroughed, Brewed", a Pinterest post about "The taproom at SingleCut Beersmiths, a craft brewery in Astoria, Queens".

Punny "boroughing" for burrowing is certainly Out There, e.g. this 2012 VOA piece "‘Boroughing’ in to New York City".

But the substitution of "boroughed" for burrowed in the article about Nickelback seems puzzling. If it's intentional wordplay, it's over my head. It's not a likely autocorrect error. Could it actually be a word-learning confusion, where the author thought that the five boroughs of New York City were originally burrows, kind of like Tolkien's Hobbiton, so that animal burrows boroughs are spelled the same way, and metaphorical burrowing boroughing is treated similarly?


  1. Joe said,

    March 3, 2024 @ 7:04 pm

    A quick etymology search seems to indicate they both come from Old English "burh" and split during Middle English. So maybe this is a just a happy reunion between two words that used to be the same word. See also "cord/chord", which can create translation problems with related languages that haven't split them.

  2. mg said,

    March 3, 2024 @ 7:13 pm

    The author also uses "outcasted", which I've never heard before – just "outcast".
    "So everyone just agreed that Nickelback was bad in fear of being outcasted and it grew from there."

    P.S. I like Nickelback.

  3. Viseguy said,

    March 3, 2024 @ 7:33 pm

    I'm betting it's a one-off error. E.g., the author had been ploughing (cough cough) through some dusty borough archives and wasn't "all there" when his fingers went astray on the keyboard. As an aside, of late I find myself involuntarily typing "femail" instead of "female". (Just did it again now, dang!) This is a recent habit, and I don't know whether it's due to encroaching senility or because "email" somehow dominates my personal word cloud. Or maybe it's simply because my fingers are tapping out "email" (the word) so often that this sequence of keystrokes has lodged itself in muscle memory.

  4. Roscoe said,

    March 3, 2024 @ 8:51 pm

    There's an old story about a student who turned in an essay in which he repeatedly spelled "burro" as "burrow." The teacher's comment: "Evidently, you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground."

  5. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    March 3, 2024 @ 10:59 pm

    ”This was before Netflix, or even taping shows to watch later”

    This part startled me. My family got our first VCR in 1983, which is more than a decade before Nickelback was even formed! :-0

  6. AKMA said,

    March 4, 2024 @ 2:38 am

    The author also misspells 'Hitler' — not the most difficult name to spell correctly, even if you've never heard of him — in the leaden first sentence, so…

  7. Zero – AKMA’s Random Thoughts said,

    March 4, 2024 @ 3:48 am

    […] of AI, Mark Liberman wonders what accounts for a blogger at Medium suggesting that a particular idea — that Nickelback is a mediocre hack-rock […]

  8. Jeremy Anne Knight said,

    March 4, 2024 @ 6:17 am

    @Michèle Shark Pituley – I read it to mean taping as in DVRing – I think the VCR idea of taping is unknown/invisible to GenAlpha and most of Gen Z.

  9. Cervantes said,

    March 4, 2024 @ 8:05 am

    I don't know where that particular homophonic error came from, but that's a really terrible piece of writing. It's almost a parade of awkward constructions, grammatical errors, and poor word choices. It looks as though it wasn't even proofread, let alone edited.

  10. Frans said,

    March 4, 2024 @ 4:07 pm


    > The author also misspells 'Hitler' — not the most difficult name to spell correctly, even if you've never heard of him — in the leaden first sentence, so…

    I understand that's one of the forbidden subjects on YouTube and as such a way to avoid demonitization. I don't think that applies to Medium, but presumably it's better safe than sorry — or it has simply started leading a life on its own. In any case it's unlikely to be an accident.

  11. Robert Coren said,

    March 6, 2024 @ 12:42 pm

    @Roscoe: I don't know if that story is actually true – it has an "invented" feel to me – but in any case it made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

  12. Terry Hunt said,

    March 6, 2024 @ 3:17 pm

    I suppose buroughing into one's subconscious would be an even greater occupation than just living there – the mind-intruder actually sets up a local government structure.

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