August 18, 2004

Chock, choke, chuck, check, chalk, jock, shock, chog: An ancient plantation of ache-corns

Tom Rossen emailed:

I'd like to offer an ache-corn (not an eggcorn, because I can't see any reasonable semantic interpretation):

(link) I had to publish  the last three parts of Robb Hendrickson's (the CEO of Jellifish, response all at once rather than stringing it out  over  three days because it is so good and chalk-filled with a rare  combination  of insight, analysis and candor that I can't sit on it.

Ouch. But as the inventor of Optimistic Programming, Tom, you should take a more hopeful view of the possibilities for fitting words together in new ways. Perhaps it's that chalk is so soft that you can mash pieces together so as to fit more into a full container?

Anyhow, it's not like chock means anything in particular to most people, when they encounter it in the phrase "chock full of" -- it's historically a variant of "choke(d) full", it seems, but with a long history of uncertainty dating back to Middle English. The OED sez:

The phonetic form and spelling and the derivation are alike unsettled, the uncertainty of the latter involving that of the former. In Dictionaries, first in Todd (1818) as choke-full (with mention of chuck-full as a ‘corruption’). Subsequent dictionaries have choke-full as main form, with chock-full as a recognized variant. But the American lexicographers have chock-full as the standard form, with choke-full as a cross-reference; and this appears to agree with literary usage in U.S. Choke-full appears to be rather the more frequent in literary use in England; but chock-full is almost universal in spoken use; chuck-full, in literary use bef. and after 1800, is now only dialectal.
  The uncertainty begins with the first appearance of the word as chokke-fulle, cheke-fulle in the alliterative Morte Arthur, the spelling of which is very insecure.

Certainly "chalk filled" and "chalk full" are pretty common:

We bring you a selection from seven seasons chalk-filled with action, aliens, angst, and anomalies.
This place is chalk full of inspiring idea's from people chalk filled with awe inspiring talents.
It's free, and chalk-filled with goodies.
Because lo and behold every weekend seems to be chalk filled with drama.

This link is to her newsletter, chalk full of advice and tips to clear the paper clutter in your office and improve productivity.
UN institution established to promote regional development; chalk full of statistics and regional information.
The 51st Annual Dubuque County Fair is chalk full of great entertainment for the entire family.
Chalk full of schizophrenic arrangements, paranoia, alcoholic swagger, and sexual dementia, it fits perfectly with what the label's been up to.
This free report is chalk full of information that can help you live a healthier and more pain-free lifestyle.

But it doesn't end there. Just change one of the features in one of the word's phonemes to get jock (or one feature in each of two phonemes, for those who still distinguish caught and cot), and the hits keep on coming:

Now, we get to behold this 4-hour epic on a DVD release from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in a beautifully clean-up and THX-certified version on three discs. Two of them are reserved for the film itself while the third one is jock-full of bonus materials.
This book is jock-full of little-known secrets about using a Windows NT-based Web software server.
I don't want to spoil this story for the readers so I'll stop right here. I will say that it is a story jock full of adventure and surprises.
Stone paths lead you around this garden jock full of flowering plants.
This bag of treats is jock full of surf-instro, garage, punk, and good old rock and roll to make your party the best in town.
There are over 562 paying markets here for writers. Jock full of information and link to organizations, contests and writing seminars.
In a system jock-full of fishy hardware like the Vaio, this may even be the safer approach.|
Each jar is jock-full of native fruit pieces and contains only 2 g of carbohydrates per one tablespoon (1/2 oz) serving!
The forums are jock full of documentation and offer an incredible wealth in additional tips and tricks.

Or change a different feature to get shock, and the beat goes on:

It'll be shock full of slaggin' news, updates, and anything else we fit into an e-mail!
The brown paper grocery bags we'd fill shock full of freshly picked veggies and take to relatives, neighbors, friends, and people in our church were numerous.
It is an adventure to read and shock full of erudition. ... Read carefully, it's shock full of subtle details. I'm sure I missed at least half of them.
ROCK is Glenn Hughes' best album in years, it's shock full of energy and melodic prowess.
This game is shock full of options- from configuring controls and settings, creating a personalized character to selecting ships for specific missions.
Sample the crisp spring rolls, greaseless and shock-full of spicy pork and carrot-studded vegetables, served on a bed of lettuce and cucumbers...
Yup, and now according to DVDFile they're all also supposed to be available in a box-set with an extra disc shock full of extras.
Still, this title featured full-length stories that were shock-full of giant insects, dinosaurs, mutated (?) cats, cavemen and so on.
Yet make no mistake about it - shock full of tales of lost love, broken bonds and heartbreak - The Last Resort is a blues record.
While the series is not shock full of eye candy, it does feature pleasant character designs (both female and male), beautiful backgrounds and fluid animation.

You can even get hits on substitutions that are are not even words -- like chog -- though these are rarer:

Yes, I understand that the current Backlash enviroment is chog full of nasty Heel players, but a proper Face deck might make the mark in the correct conditions.

And of course there's chuck, choke and check, as the OED informs us.

Each collection is composed of five CDs check full of high resolution, broadcast quality scenes and clips.
Sign up to get your copy of Rubber Side Down, chuck full of news, interviews, bike tips, contests and more!
It is choke full of information that you can digest!

There's an all-too-obvious semantics for "jock full", and interpretations for "shock full" are not hard to imagine. But it's clear that you don't need to be choked full of meaning, in order to get started in the eggcorn business.


Posted by Mark Liberman at August 18, 2004 12:59 AM