Saturday, 5 May 2012

Crack another eggcorn

I know that I've written about eggcorns before [small delay while I truffle off through the new Blogger interface to find the right link] but I've just read an email that resulted in me looking something up.

I saw a student last week and thought I saw a 'sea change'. Another tutor saw her a few days later and saw a 'seed change'. That's odd, I thought. Being aware that my English has two characteristics 1) words I learned through reading that I consequently have no idea how to pronounce and 2) words I learned through family speaking that I have never seen written down anywhere, I went off in search of the connection between the two phrases.

[Side note. My mother and various other members of my family pronounce the word 'picturesque' as 'picture-skew-only-it's-not-really-it's-picturesque-because-you-have-to-be-careful-because-I-had-a-friend-at-school-whose-family-pronounced-it-pictureskew-as-a-joke-and-she-grew-up-thinking-that-was-really-how-it-was-pronounced-and-used-it-in-a-university-interview-and-was-subjected-to-ridicule'. So usually I can rely on family phrase pronunciation being correct. However, I recently discovered that the verb 'to be overfaced' is a Yorkshire, or at least a Northern, usage only. So there are things in my everyday vocabulary which I think are universal which turn out to be local dialect. Which is why it never hurts to be careful.]

Turns out 'Sea change' is from The Tempest (natch), but that 'seed change' is an eggcorn - or false etymology - for the same phrase, because it is a change which precedes some major growth. Interesting. If you're me.

And that leads me to Shakespeare and the brill production of The Winter's Tale which I saw yesterday (and am going to see again with someone else in a couple of hours). Never seen or read it before. Normally a new Shakespeare is reason for me to be sitting there going 'oh, that's where that phrase comes from'. Not so much yesterday, except for one classic: 'tumbling in the hay'. I shall be listening out for more this afternoon.

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