August 19, 2004

Eggcorn and malaprop among the flowers

Mark Liberman presents us with a shock-jock-filled bouquet of ache-corns taking off on the expression chock-full or chock-filled. Back in April I came across yet another (very common) variant, chocked full, in which the original chock is interpreted as if it were a reduction of a past participle (as in bake beans for baked beans), which is then "fixed" by having the past participle suffix restored. Along with this eggcorn came a classical malapropism as well.

On 29 April 2004, I posted the following (slightly edited here) to the American Dialect Society mailing list:


While googling on "Zwicky Lederer", to see if my Prescriptivism and Usage website files have gotten into the system, I discovered a review of Spencer & Zwicky, Morphological Theory, that I hadn't seen before. On, the only review there, by someone billed as "verafides, a Real, Live Linguist". (Verafides also has a list of favorite books in linguistics, and S&Z gets in there too.)

Well, it's a bouquet of flowers for Andy Spencer and me (and our many contributors). This is immensely gratifying, of course. And, as a bonus, there's a malaprop. From the review, which begins with five stars:

* * * * * What a pointless review this is about to be...

You know why nobody has ever reviewed this book on Amazon? Because shoppers interested in a gigantic collection of academic papers on morphological theory are already AWARE of what it is, and don't need to be told about it. And anyone else will never, in fact, look at this review. So it's entirely a bizarre anachronism -- a review that nobody will read, that has nothing useful to say.

This is, of course, a wonderful compilation of papers on morphology. It's chocked full of data, and tons of careful analysis...

[more praise]

But you probably already know this. If you didn't, you wouldn't be looking at this book -- you'd be off digging up a used copy of "M is for Mush-for-Brains" by Sue Grafton-Higgins Clark. And then you wouldn't have any clue what I'm talking about, and probably too busy being led astray by William Safire or Richard Lederer to bother trying to find out...

I left the last part in so you can see why this came up in a "Zwicky Lederer" search. (In another review, verafides savages Ehrlich & Lederer, The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate.)

My interest was piqued (or, as some say, peaked, or peeked) by the word "anachronism", which certainly isn't the right one for the job verafides used it for. "Anomaly", maybe? (Malaprops tend to set of the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, alas.)

Yes, I was dubious about "chocked full" too. Google has about 18,700 web hits on it. "Chock full", with about 207,000 web hits, beats it all hollow, but 18,700 is not a negligible number.

And, no, I don't know who verafides is.

The review was posted on June 10, 2003, so it's not exactly hot news. I've been kind of out of the loop...


That was the story at the end of April. Meanwhile, eggcorns have been rolling in in these parts. Yesterday I caught the following in The Advocate of 31 August 2004, "Insurance insecurity", by Jeremy Quittner, p. 44: "Joe says that he was given an HIV antibody test that came back negative. Since he lacked health insurance, he did not have access to the more costly viral lode test."

It makes some kind of sense; the test checks out the lode, or hoard, of HIV within your body.

And now, a few minutes ago, Language Log reader Max Vasilatos, of San Francisco, arrived to have lunch with me and offered two eggcorns that she'd come across: statue of limitations (13,300 Google hits, many in legal contexts) and taking for granite (only 30 hits, but some of them apparently genuine).

The beet goes on.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at August 19, 2004 05:42 PM