September 10th

eggcorn of the day #4


"… but even tropical force winds can wreck havoc.”

Here, “wreck havoc” is an eggcorn of “wreak havoc.”  As the entry in the Eggcorn Database suggests, this non-homophonic substitution likely began with persons reading the phrase, not hearing it spoken.

In context of the original phrase, the verb “to wreak” signifies “To cause or effect (harm, damage, etc.)” (OED 8b.)

"Havoc," the noun being brought into effect, means:

2. Devastation, destruction; esp. in phr. to make havoc, play havoc (freq. const. with), in which the earlier sense of spoliation or plunder has gradually passed into that of destructive devastation. Also in weakened sense: confusion and disorder, disarray. The phrases to work havoc, create havoc are also common. (OED)

Thus, the eggcorn: “to wreck havoc” is a tautology.

20100910 @ 2231
August 22nd

A sort of PSA: Proper usage is important, but one should never stake anyone’s life on it.

20100822 @ 1836
August 10th
Usage note #3:  Flagrant word substitution or the shocking truth about other diet programs? You decide.

Usage note #3:  Flagrant word substitution or the shocking truth about other diet programs? You decide.

20100810 @ 1907
March 19th

usage note #2

"secession" vs. "cessation"


"In these cases [the interveners] would be more interested in continuation, rather than secession, of hostilities, and the longer peace deals last the less successful their actions would actually be.”

The OED defines “secession” as:

1. a. The action or an act of going away from one’s accustomed neighbourhood, or of retiring from public view; the condition of living remote from one’s former home, or retired from public view; retirement. Obs.
3. a. The action of seceding or formally withdrawing from an alliance, a federation, a political or religious organization, or the like. Hence, a body of seceders.

Thus, the only way we might conceive of a “secession of hostilities” would be to imagine the ongoing conflict suddenly picking up shop and moving as a unit to an entirely different location.  As this is an unlikely possibility, let us see if “cessation” makes any more sense.  According to the OED, “cessation” means:

1. Ceasing, discontinuance, stoppage; either permanent or temporary.
b. Cessation of or from arms: suspension of hostilities; armistice, truce.

And we have a winner: the author of the example sentence wishes us to understand that ending a conflict — cessation of hostilities — is not necessarily a marker of success if the intervening state is uninterested in peace.

20100319 @ 2129
June 24th

eggcorn of the day #3


"You are in touch with your inner-self, feelings, and deep-seeded emotions, and love to express them with music and art.”

In this sentence, “deep-seeded emotions” is an eggcorn of “deep-seated emotions.”

The Eggcorn Database documents this substitution, citing Mark Liberman of the Language Log:

And in terms of the current ordinary-language meaning of the words involved, “deep-seeded ignorance” makes sense, while “deep-seated ignorance” doesn’t. Ignorance can be planted deep and thus have deep metaphorical roots, but deep-seated ignorance would have to be ignorance cut with a lot of room in the crotch, or maybe ignorance sitting in a badly-designed armchair.

The Eggcorn Database further notes, “for most speakers, the verb seed will be common in the sense relating to sports competitions, leading to top-seeded.”

However, if one traces the origin of the term “deep-seated,” we find that it does indeed make sense. The OED offers this as one definition for the noun “seat”:

14. a. The thing (esp. the organ or part of the body) in which a particular power, faculty, function or quality ‘resides’; the locality of a disease, sensation, or the like.
b. Similarly, of the soul or its parts.

This definition of “seat” leads us to understand that “deep-seated” emotions would be those harbored in the innermost parts of one’s being, inside one’s core self.

20090624 @ 2359