May 24, 2004

Sticking in one's crawl

The American Heritage Dictionary has

IDIOM: stick in (one's) craw To cause one to feel abiding discontent and resentment.

A transcript entitled "Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.) Remarks at CDI Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004" contains the following phrase:

They did not ever want to hear that we had a problem, something sticking our crawl, that we didn’t bring up to them, and we didn’t honestly express if we felt it had to be expressed.

(Note that this is a transcript of a recorded presentation and interchange -- specifically at this point one of Gen. Zinni's responses to questions -- and so this " eggcorn" is much more likely to have been created by the transcriber than by the speaker.)

This is the only Ghit for "sticking our crawl" (making it a .001 KGh expression, with a frequency of 0.23 GPB -- Ghits per Billion documents). There are quite a few eggcorns for this phrase with crawl in place of craw, however, as long as we retain the preposition "in":

(link) And to think that his hand picked protoge was beat out by a 7th rounder must stick in his crawl.
(link) “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton” is going to cause the girls to melt, but it’s really gonna stick in the crawl of the guys.
(link) It may stick in your crawl, but we're coming back yankee boys and girls.
(link) There are two things that realy stick in my crawl... People who aren't tolerant of other people, and that lying bastard Sayer.

There are 21 Ghits for "stick in * crawl", making it a .021 KGh pattern with a frequency of 4.9 GPB.

The pattern "sticks in * crawl" has 47 Ghits, making that a 10.97 GPB pattern.

(link) But what sticks in my crawl is the creative lethargy that takes a twenty year old song from one of the most innovative bands to emerge from the post punk, pre-techno era and just blithely gut it for fodder.
(link) This sticks in my crawl, maybe because, I refuse to hide behind anything or anyone false ...
(link) there's just something about shania and like, celine dion, that really sticks in my crawl i just can't put my finger on it
(link) Sorry for the rant, but it sticks in my crawl.

The pattern "sticking in * crawl" has 24 Ghits, making it a 5.60 GPB deal, and the pattern "stuck in * crawl" has 66, but only 23 of those are relevant -- the others are things like "stuck in the crawl space" and "stuck in the crawl of traffic".

Adding it all up, we have 21+47+24+23 = 115 Ghits, or 26.8 GPB.

(This is an upper bound, since some of the pages may have been returned for more than one of the searches).

By comparison, looking at the original patterns "stick in * craw" etc., we see that these are overall about 127 times as common:

  stick in * sticks in * sticking in * stuck in * Total Ghits GPB

The original idiom has a frequency of about 3,400 GPB, while the "eggcorn" idiom has a frequency of less than 30 GPB.

Why are 3396.1 and 26.8 GPB better numbers than 14,553 and 115 Ghits?

For the purposes of comparing the eggcorn to the idiom, it doesn't matter -- the ratio is the ratio, and all we need to do is to say that at the moment, the original idiom seems to be a bit more than 100 times more frequent than the eggcorn. However, if we care about the actual frequencies, then we want the normalized counts. It means something to say that as of today, the idiom "stick in one's craw" has a frequency of about 3,400 GPB.

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 24, 2004 08:18 PM