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Eggcorns….Reanalysis of English!

As an ESL teacher to students who speak Spanish, I look for fun ways to teach a subject, and this one was promising from the very first meme I found. Did you know there is actually a site where eggcorns are collected? No, seriously! Apparently, I am a sucker for a funny eggcorn which in itself is an example of reanalysis as it was derived from acorn. However, the word reanalysis technically comes from mondegreen that was introduced by Sylvia White in 1954 (Grammarist). The definition in Module Two: Formations states, “Often referred to as “eggcorns,”reanalysis of a word is creating a new meaning, often through a misunderstanding of the original intent or meaning, typically from a metaphor and/or changing the emphasis in articulation or pronunciation” (SNHU Blackboard).
One of the first eggcorns I came across was much ado which reminded me of a play by William Shakespeare called Much Ado About Nothing. In reality, ado can be either ‘to do’ or ‘adieu’ which is a good representation of how people change definitions to fit their needs. We see this a lot in writing, and it is also how much of documentation of language is found. We know that he coined thousands of words and phrases, but he was also credited with influencing the English language in many other ways too. In the book Global Writing for Public Relations, it says, The ‘sister’ term is dogberryism, also based on a character in a play Much Ado About Nothing, who struggled with the differences between comprehended and apprehended and auspicious and suspicious” (Flowers 222). So, Much Ado translates to a bunch to do for something being nothing. Adieu means goodbye, so it would not make sense other than as an eggcorn. But, they are both good examples to show students how to best interpret their meanings. It is also a good reminder of how grammar topics come to be. In Shakespeare’s time, it was just a character being funny, but to people today, it is a real grammar topic based on centuries of mistakes that were made either by spelling or definition. We can follow the history of reanalysis from Shakespeare, on to White in 1954, to Geoffrey Pullum in 2003. This is a great representation of how language is reanalyzed based on the people who use it. It is also a representation of academics in paying attention to how language is used and changed over time as English (or any language) evolves over time. One such example I commonly see is when people make moot points but write it as mute points. The mistake is again tied to phonology because it is sounds and not spelling that the mind interprets first I think. In our textbook, it says, “Within the continuous stream of sound that we usually think of as “speech” or even “language,” our brains distinguish individual sound units or segments, which linguists call phonemes” ( Curzan &Adams 63). So, it is possible that reanalyzing comes from interpretation of sound and not usage. A moot point is often used in debates where someone will shoot down someone’s answer. But, when they say a mute point, it would mean a point that has no sound or maybe something that someone said that should not have been said…maybe? The point is that when we make mistakes, we often lead to discoveries where words or phrases take on new meanings to the people using them. I think before this class is over, I will be curled up in a feeble position instead of curled up in a fetal position (The Eggcorn Database). Feeble sounds more fun!  There are 646 eggcorns if anyone wants to check them out here: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/browse-eggcorns/

 

Some things I learned today is that these mistakes are probably associated with sound because people pick them up by hearing them repeated. I found this to be interesting as I teach sound rather than patterns in a reverse fashion to the US academic standards. I use The Color Vowel Chart system which has been promising for my students (https://americanenglish.state.gov/resources/color-vowel-chart). This is why I think sound recognition has more to do with these eggcorns being created than spelling simply because we are a verbal nation rather than a written one when in communities. I also have to wonder if recognition of the mistakes is how the reanalysis takes place where a word or phrase changes meaning. If someone said to me that my point was mute, I would think it was one they either wished I never said or one that they wished they had not heard. So, I think it is a good example as to why we should not discredit mistakes as patterns exist in all forms of language that leads to great discoveries in how we use a language. I think that this topic could be very interesting along side the Color Chart as a way to express how words have the same sounds but are easily confused. As I learned more about this topic, I could see valuable ways to incorporate this subject into different grammar topics. It could also be fun which is key in teaching a second language! As an example of who other languages work the same way, an ESL teacher once said he was embarazado because he thought it was the same sound pattern as embarrassed. Turns out it is pregnant, so his Spanish students heard him say he was pregnant. Then, it became a “thing” for me to tell my students about in the first class where mistakes are going to happen in learning a new language, but it is all in how you handle it that counts. I am sure he was embarrassed to be embarazado, but it turned out the story caught on and became a way for teachers to connect to students to show that they should just laugh off the mistakes as they will happen. So, even though they are mistakes does not mean they will not lead to another usage down the road. So, for reanalysis, it is about taking mistakes and finding new ways to adapt them to our language.
While eggcorns seem rather anecdotal, the truth is that they sound more antidotal for our embarrassment since they can make us laugh when we make mistakes! Laughing
Egg Corn

(Servais)

 

 

Curzan, Anne, and Michael Adams.  How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction. Boston: Longman 2012. Print

Flowers, Arhlene, Global Writing for Public Relations, Connecting in English with Stakeholders and Publics Worldwide, Routledge NY and London, (2016)

Grammarist. Eggcorns and Mondegreens, Grammarist.com, (2014). retrieved on June 28, 2017, from http://grammarist.com/mondegreens/

Servais, Eric, Eggcorns and Nauseums: THe Hilarious Effects of Turns of Phrases, Grammar Party Blog, (2011 Sept 13), retrieved on June 28, 2017, from

Eggcorns and nauseum: The hilarious effects of turns of phrase

SNHU. Module Two: Reformation, SNHU Blackboard, (n.d.), Retrieved on June 28, 2017, from https://bb.snhu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-16420606-dt-content-

rid-53617800_1/courses/ENG-550-17TW5-MASTER/ENG-550%20Student%20Documents/ENG%20550%20Module%20Two%20Overview.pdf

The Eggcorn Database. Eggcorns, Lascribe.net, (n.d.), retrieved on June 28, 2017, from http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/browse-eggcorns/

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