Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1998 09:24:27 -0500
From: Larry Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: standardization of non-standard forms

At 8:40 AM -0500 3/11/98, Robert Ness wrote:
I've recorded the following suspected malapropisms from my students:
faulter (falter); take for granite, vice versal, boiling (buillon) cube,
expertriate, a doggy-dog world, to passify (too soothe into passivity), to
place one on a pedistool, to route out sin, Nato is out of sink with
Europe, Emerson believes in a happy median, blood was trinkling from the
cut, and my favorite: he was in the field plowing his burro (i.e., he
doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground). On Tue, 10 Mar 1998,
Devon Coles wrote:

Peter McGraw wrote regarding malapropisms:

(My own favorite example is a woman who was denouncing some group of
people or other and concluded by telling me, "I just think they ought
to be Osterized!" Unfortunately, to my knowledge it never caught
on, even regionally.)

My personal favourite is the example of a receptionist in my office who
reported a great night on the town during which her boyfriend "drank himself
into Bolivia."
Devon Coles

These are all nice malapropisms, granted, although I'd also call them nonce
reanalyses and/or folk etymologies, since they all involve an invention of
transparency at some level. Many of them are widely attested (the
"doggy-dog world", "passify" (which could be a blend of pacify and
passivize), perhaps "taking for granite" (and don't forget "it takes two to
tangle"), but I'd still be wary of seeing any standardization in these
cases. That is, I don't think there's really a dialect group in which
these versions are learned as such (as opposed to being reinvented as nonce
forms within a given idiolect). Some we've discussed earlier under the
heading of mondegreens or pullet surprises are more plausible candidates
for this standardization: "duck tape", "chaise lounge", perhaps "tenure
tract" or "no holes barred".
I was just reminded of another expression that has now shifted
along the lines of the (non-malapropism?) examples I was citing yesterday
(proof in the pudding, wherefore art thou): the reanalysis of "beg the
question". ESPN's baseball analyst Peter Gammons last night was discussing
the Toronto Blue Jays' prospects for this year, with strong pitching and
uncertain hitting, and said that this "begs the question of which is more
important, pitching or hitting"--i.e., it RAISES that question. OK, not a
malapropism, but this clearly represents a standardization of a form not
standardly used with this meaning.