Friday, March 04, 2005

lol The Eggcorn Database


Pointer to site:

Kobielus kommentary:
Brilliant! I’m so glad somebody’s keeping track of these written malapropisms, which they refer to as “eggcorns.” Here’s their definition of an “eggcorn”:

o “This site collects unusual spellings of a particular kind, which have come to be called eggcorns. Typical examples include free reign (instead of free rein) or hone in on (instead of home in on), and many more or less common reshapings of words and expressions: a word or part of a word is semantically reanalyzed, and the spelling reflects the new interpretation. The About page offers more information on the history of the term and of this collection.”

And they doubly impressed me by having “baited breath” (which is a very common misspelling of “bated breath”). My mnemonic for this particular item is that “bated” is a shortening of “abated,” which means to “reduce the force or intensity of.” Hence, someone may wait with “bated breath”—in other words, self-consciously reduced, quieted, calmed breathing—for some anticipated event. But no one waits with “baited breath,” unless they’ve swallowed a bucket of minnows. Hey, a new stunt for “Fear Factor”! Here’s an ersatz Confucian proverb I made up in 1987, when this “eggcorn” jumped out at me:

o “He who waits with baited breath catches trout with forked tongue.”

Before I close this post, I'd like to note that these "eggcorns" are beautiful examples of "language as an object worthy of contemplation," per a previous "imho" post. Language's ambiguity (deliberate or accidental) is part of what can make poetical or rhetorical expression so powerful. The best poetry/rhetoric carries inside itself the penumbra of all the unspoken, invisible, and latent words, feelings, and concepts that the written words suggest or imply. Let me close this post with an example, a poem that I wrote a while ago. In reading this little capsule, ask yourself which implicit words/thoughts scream from the sidelines, and how they shade/inform the written words/thoughts. Half the time, I'm not entirely conscious of the penumbra poem until I've laid down all the visible words. OK, here's the example poem:



Deaden the anger with air
and a prayer for forgiveness.

Live it through. A sore outlasts
its irritant: a pain, the

point. A rash word holds the hurt
in the firmament of the

world’s regard. Curse: a comet
impressed into flesh’s fate,

a stone with a name, a mark
and a flame returning. Leave

these currents burn. Let the night
reset what day has torn. Pray

it take this weary frame. Void
me now in the calm to come.