November 03, 2003

Another eggcorn

Public Service Announcement: If you've come here because you're interested in solemn promises of faithful attachment in marriage, and you've searched for "wedding vowels", you really should make this search for "wedding vows" instead. A vow is "a solemn engagement, undertaking, or resolve, to achieve something or to act in a certain way." A vowel is "a speech sound produced by the passage of air through the vocal tract with relatively little obstruction, or the corresponding letter of the alphabet", usually contrasted with consonant. Your vows will need to contain both vowels and consonants. I wish you all the best in your ceremony and in your life together!

The Miss Manners column in the San Francisco Chronicle today (Monday, November 3) reveals evidence of another very clear eggcorn. A reader wrote in to ask for information on the etiquette (about gifts, etc.) surrounding the practice of "renewing the wedding vowels". Miss Manners was gentle as always: "Forgive Miss Manners for skewering you with a simple typographical error...". But it wasn't a typographical error; it was clearly an eggcorn.

[Update 1/26/2004: A reader has pointed out that the word avowal is no doubt part of the pattern that results in this confusion. (myl)]

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at November 3, 2003 08:22 PM