Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shirr madness on the runway

This photo ran in Tuesday's New York Times with a caption describing the garment as a Jil Sander "beaver coat, longhaired on the top, shirred below."

Shirred is a perfectly good fashion word -- shirring is gathering fabric on a cord or thread(s) -- but I don't see any shirring on that coat. I think the lower section is actually sheared, i.e., cut shorter than the fur on top.

The author, Cathy Horyn, certainly knows the difference, but she probably never saw the photo. Whoever provided the caption probably heard "shear"; the editor who wrote the caption was similarly clueless; and shirred is fine with spellcheck. It's just not correct.

I don't think this can be an eggcorn, because I doubt that the people who put it into print gave a thought to what shirred might be referring to. Which reminds me of another tidbit of wisdom from the Old Editor: "If there's a word in the text you don't understand, and you let the text go, you haven't edited it."

I'm still curious, though, about the original mishearing. Sheared and shirred aren't homonyms for me -- shirr sounds like "sure," not "sheer." Is there any dialect in which the two sound the same?

 AP photo / Antonio Calanni


vp said...

shirr sounds like "sure," not "sheer."

Not helpful! "sure" is pronounced in at least three different ways:

* rhyming with "tour"
* rhyming with "tore"
* rhyming with "stir".

I'm guessing that your "sure" rhymes with "stir" :)

Unknown said...

Well, there's the black dialect that pronounces "all up in here" like "all up in hurr", but I doubt that's what's going in here.

Stan said...

My "sure" rhymes with "tour", my "shirr" with "stir" (west Irish English speaker).

I notice that some US English speakers, and perhaps elsewhere, pronounce "mirror" almost like "meer" — for me it's /mɪrɘr/ — so merging "shirred" and "sheared" doesn't seem a stretch.

Jan said...

Stan, my Northern Ohio dialect had the one-syllable "meer" for "mirror" -- it took me years of living in Boston (and being kidded by my husband) to acquire that additional syllable. But I have no memory of a shear/shirr merger -- of course, "shirring" is not a common topic of conversation.

VP, the vowels in my "sure" and "shirr" probably aren't exactly the same, but my shirr/sure/stir/pure are close enough to rhyme nicely in a poem -- and very distinct from shear/sheer/fear/mere etc.

John Cowan said...

For me mirror is two syllables when I'm speaking lento, but at allegro speeds the second syllable becomes just a prolonged /r/, so "mirrrr, mirrr, on the wall". In any case, however, the "i" is /ɪ/, like Stan's.

empty said...

I remember that my late father (grew up near Chicago) said that for him "pour" sounded like "pore", not "poor".

What if anything is the connection between "shirred" as in in coats and "shirred" as in eggs? Neither is in my vocabulary, exactly, but I've heard of the latter.

SAMARAS said...

I speak with a mostly British accent now modified a little by 35 years in Canada .
My daughter gets quite upset if I should mention a "Pawn shop" She always hears it as "porn"

June S

Barbara Collishaw said...

My Southern Ontario speech and hearing approve of pour=pore. When I say shirr, it doesn't rhyme with shear, but when my mother or her older relatives said shirr, it did rhyme with shear at least some of the time.