March 06, 2006

Here's why Language Log is indispensable

I lead a sheltered life here in Splendid Otium ME 04860, and without Language Log I suspect I'd never have encountered The Eggcorn Database. Etymology:

In September 2003, Mark Liberman reported (Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???) an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation: someone had written “egg corn” instead of “acorn”. It turned out that there was no established label for this type of non-standard reshaping. Erroneous as it may be, the substitution involved more than just ignorance: an acorn is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains of corn. So if you don’t know how acorn is spelled, egg corn actually makes sense.

And who knew that mondegreens were, well, mondegreens?
If your dictionary doesn't include "mondegreen," throw it out and buy a better one.

The term "mondegreen" was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen." As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn't realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: "They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green."

Posted by oook at March 6, 2006 08:01 AM