August 09, 2006


Reading Mark Peters on eggcorns, it donged on me that we haven't featured a new eggcorn here at Language Log for a while. [Well, for four minutes, to be precise, because Ben Zimmer was already on the case as I composed this post... and meanwhile Language Loggers Arnold Zwicky and Ben Zimmer have been regularly contributing new entries to Chris Waigl's Eggcorn Database.]

A few examples from the internets;

Then it donged on me, Broadcom is providing the source code, the vendors just add their tweaks and change some logo's.
After looking at trackback.php delete function it donged on me that its used from inside article pages.
At first it was just a fun thing to listen to your recordings, but then it finally donged on me that Victor is actually talking.
Dude! It just donged on me, that the comment you left me on March 5th of this year @ 10:33 a.m...I....I could be wrong...however, I think it might be gay.
Hey girl! you look like youre going mod in that picture! you know what just donged on me! WE ARE SO GOING TO BE JUNIORS NEXT YEAR!
OOOOOOOOH it just donged on me, I remember now! How I wish I could forget that Nov. nightmare!
Then it donged on me…she didn’t want to be associated with me in public, around people she works with, because I have gained some weight.
it kept falling apart so one day it finally donged on me that I could actually go BUY a new trashcan...
I'm embarrased to say that I've seen the original trilogy countless times, and this never donged on me before.
It just donged on me that the TIMER uses electricity and no timer, no boiler!
It just donged on me its 2006 . Time flies . . .
I finally got out then realized what had happened, he had been attacked by a shark, later we found out it was a bull shark, thats when it donged on me, omg, i was on the water, not just floating on a board, he could of took me much more easily...
Today I was cleaning the basement for this party a mentioned above.. and it donged on me.... I really have a lot to be thankful for!

An "oops" page notes this as one of those cases where someone has "taken a common phrase or word and mutilated it". The discussion highlights the poetic force of such mistakes:

The funny thing about this was that it was a former neighbor of mine whose name was Dawn. Putting aside the fact that she wasn't the brightest beam shining through the window, I think she hit on something here. I mean, when something dawns on us, isn't it often like a "DONG!" on the head?!?

Exactly. "Dawned on me" is a stale, flavorless metaphor. Now, there's nothing wrong with using such expressions. Most English words and phrases are the fossilized residue of dead metaphors, from a certain point of view, and if you seriously tried to follow Orwell's advice ("Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print"), you'd be reduced to pointing and grunting. But "donged on me" is fresh and vivid. The only trouble is that if you write or say it, people will laugh at you. So there's your choice: you can be boring or you can seem ignorant.

[I first learned about this particular eggcorn from Cynthia McLemore, who explained that she and the late Professor Harold Kane discussed it in an English class at the University of Colorado, several decades ago, but didn't have a name to give to the phenomenon.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 9, 2006 10:13 AM