February 28, 2007

Was that a Sachertortology or a Pflaumentortology?

Green Bamboo has selected a few choice examples of Hartman's Law from the Telegraph's recent linguistic gripe-fest. The best catch:

How about tortologies like "reduce down", "past history". Or there the politicians' favourite: "absolutely right".

We shouldn't make (too much) fun of people like Peter L., who contributed the little gem above. He's one of the millions who are intensely interested in the analysis of speech and language, but get no chance to learn how to do it competently, and no place to pursue their interest except in prescriptivist group gripes.

[Let me note in passing that someone submitted tortology to the eggcorn database's contributions page back in 2005, but it hasn't made it into the database itself, perhaps because it's rather rare. Do you suppose that those who use it (presumably r-less individuals for whom it's homophonous with "tautology") think that it has something to do with legal torts?]

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 28, 2007 10:43 AM