Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1998 11:34:36 -0600
From: William J Stone W-Stone[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]NEIU.EDU
Subject: Re: standardization of non-standard forms

On Wed, 11 Mar 1998, Larry Horn wrote:
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.


Larry Horn distinguishes the standardized malapropism from the nonce form.
This brought to mind a difference in nursery rhymes between Britain and
the U.S. I was raised in Britain with "A ring, a ring of roses, a pocket
full of posies" with its reference to the signs of the plague.(Who but the
British would make a nursey rhyme out of a fatal disease?) A few years ago
I found my American wife teaching our first child "A ring around the
rosie". I assumed that she had merely misheard the rhyme and was giving a
nonce malapropism. Having lived here for a few years now, I find that this
is the way that the rhyme goes here. While not in the same category as
other malapropisms, it does appear related to me. Incidentally, what does
"A ring around the rosie" mean?

Linguistics Department
N.E.Illinois University