Saturday, October 20, 2012

A canoedling detour, an eggcorn update

I've been neglecting this blog, it's true, but I haven't been utterly idle. I wrote a piece on the word canoodle for Cognoscenti, the new ideas-and-opinions blog at the website of my favorite public radio station, WBUR. And because canoodling has been linked (speculatively) with canoes, the (brief) history of boating romance is part of the background. It's a delightful story even without the language angle: Check out the essay "Love Boats" for more on "canoedling."

In other business: If your memory is good, you may recall that we debated, back in September, whether "wager the pros and cons" (instead of "weigh") qualified as an eggcorn. Arnold Zwicky, eggcorn eggspert, has replied to my request for a judgment on the matter:
Not an easy one. But you do make a semantic case for the eggcorn. [I.e., I argued that a speaker might think of "wagering" as betting on the likelihood of alternative outcomes.]
My guess is that this is a mixed case, with some occurrences being ordinary (classical) malaprops and some being eggcorns. (The phonology is a bit distant in either case.)
 It does seem unlikely that it's going to catch on.
So I guess Eugenia Last, the astrologer who's responsible for most examples of "wager the pros and cons," will get the last (sorry) word; if she means "wager" in some plausible way, she's got herself an eggcorn.

Illustration: A couple on the Charles River in Newton, Mass. (Vintage postcard courtesy of Benson Gray.)


bibliophile said...

Haven't you reversed "weigh" and "wager" in your last (there it is again) paragraph?

bibliophile said...
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Jan said...

Yes, bibliophile, I did reverse them; now fixed. Thanks for noting it, and apologies for the delay in correcting it.