Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'll wager it's an eggcorn

Saw this line today in Eugenia Last's syndicated Astrological Forecast:
Wager the pros and cons of any situation before you decide to take part. 
I've only heard that expression as "weigh the pros and cons," "weigh your options," and so forth. But practically every day I learn that half the English-speaking world accepts a usage I've never heard, so I went to look for Google hits. There were only 104 (real) hits, many of them duplicates, and many from Eugenia Last forecasts (not always credited). Here's a recent one, from Sept. 15, 2012:
Don't jump at the first offer that comes your way. Wager the pros and cons of any decision you must make.
And the earliest one I found from Last, on Google News, from Sept. 2, 1997:
You will wager the pros and cons of any situation before you decide to jump in.
A sampling from the non-astrological cites:
One must wager the pros and cons of this feature. If this feature is of no importance then weight will be an issue.*
Thanks, I am getting more used to it as time goes by I guess I will have to wager the pros and cons.
"Wager the pros and cons" is a plausible enough eggcorn, it seems to me; instead of weighing the options, the metaphor involves making a mental bet on one's choice. But the usage doesn't seem to be spreading, even after 15 years of national exposure. ("Wager the options," which would be a natural extension of the idiom, gets only three Google hits.)  I don't know what the stars predict, but I doubt there's a bright future for this language innovation.

*Maybe this commenter used "wager the pros and cons" to avoid the echo of weigh/weight?

Update 10/20/12: Arnold Zwicky replies to my question about whether "wager the pros and cons" qualifies as an eggcorn.

7 comments:

John Burgess said...

I'd wager what's going on is a mishearing/misunderstanding of "weigh your options" which is being elided into "way-ger options".

Jan said...

Good thought, John -- but the prevalent form is "wager the pros and cons," which doesn't morph into "way-ger" or "way-yer" quite so neatly!

Stan said...

Unless the past tense ("weighed your pros and cons") was heard and misanalysed, and the definite article added later. It's a stretch, granted.

empty said...

Here's another (far-fetched) theory. There are some words in other languages that are related to "weigh" but look more like "wager"--German "Waage" (scales) for example. I wonder if Ms Last was somehow misled by one of these. Did she grow up speaking another Germanic language?

But an on-line bio says she grew up in Ontario, and that her "background" is "Rumanian Ukrainian".

Marc Leavitt said...

I wouldn't call it a true eggcorn. I think it's simply a misunderstanding of the meaning of wager. We wouldn't bet our pros and cons; we'd weigh them.

Bryan M. White said...

I'm going with Marc on this one. At the very least, I think that the mistake is probably based more in meaning than sound.

janes_kid said...

I'll wager that it started out as an incident of the Cupertino effect and spread, ever so slowly for awhile.