Archive for the ‘Errors’ Category

Popsicles for dinner

August 3, 2015

Strips from the One Big Happy cartoon often appear on this blog featuring the 6-year-old Ruthie wrestling with vocabulary she’s not familiar with — doing her best to accommodate what people say to what she knows. No doubt many, or even most, of these vignettes are drawn from real life. Now, from linguist John Beavers yesterday, this tale about his 2 1/2-year-old daughter Morrissey:

We had a bunch of Chinese leftovers, so I told Morrissey that she was going to eat potstickers for dinner. She was very excited. The excitement dissipated quickly when the plate landed in front of her and she discovered she was not in fact going to have Popsicles for dinner.

Popsicles familiar territory, potstickers not so much.

Some commenters applauded the idea of Popsicles for dinner, and I recommended potstickers for breakfast.

Dave Blazek

July 26, 2015

Another cartoonist new to this blog (like Ken Krimstein, recently posted on). The Loose Change cartoon by Blazek below (from 2010) came to me from the Grammarly Facebook page via a friend:


Pin the Apostrophe on the Word.

There’s a rich vein of cartoons mocking English teachers for their purported inclination to focus on minutiae.



July 24, 2015

In today’s One Big Happy, Ruthie again copes with vocabulary she’s unfamiliar with but nevertheless struggles to accommodate — in this case, allayed ‘diminished or put to rest’ (said of fear, suspicion, or worry):

Well, it sounds like it had laid in it.

Briefly: Word retrieval errors based on semantics

July 19, 2015

A particularly nice error I committed in writing up “Late summer porn sales” (here):

now that Independence Day and gay pride days are past and Memorial Day is about six weeks in the future

Memorial Day instead of Labor Day.

This is, first of all, a semantics-based word retrieval error, rather than a phonologically-based one; Labor and Memorial are not at all phonologically similar, but they are semantically similar — both names of US holidays. Even better, they are semantically opposed: in a convention of US culture, Memorial Day is the beginning of the summer season, Labor Day the end of it.


out way

July 14, 2015

On ADS-L on the 8th, Geoff Nunberg reported this reanalysis of outweigh, from a comment on an article at

Emotion and logic are not of equal value. Does not science and the collective efforts of humanity qualify as a higher form of discourse? The needs of the many out way the feelings of a few.

It turned out that Google gives over 400 actual hits for “out way the”, the vast majority of them involving reanalyses of outweigh. It’s hard to see this as a garden-variety eggcorn (how could it be an improvement in semantics?), so the ADS-Lers considered other possibilities; in particular, from Dan Goncharoff:

Do we have any idea how many eggcorns [well, reanalyses — AMZ] today are generated by speech-to-text programs? I imagine lots of educated users who can’t be bothered to fix errors on their phones or tablets.

An intriguing idea. Surely this must happen, even if out way turns out not to be an example.

In any case, more technology-caused errors, first cousins to cupertinos.


Briefly: a catamitic misreading

July 2, 2015

Another “out of the corner of the eye” misreading, from the front page of the NYT yesterday (July 1st). What I thought I saw was the teaser head

A Love Tested by Catamites

As I tried to imagine how the story went, I focused more carefully on the page, and saw the head

A Love Tested by Calamities

And then I wondered about the history of catamite.


Two for Thursday

June 25, 2015

In this morning’s crop of cartoons, a One Big Happy and a Bizarro:




Briefly: A misreading

June 23, 2015

Seen (in the NYT) out of the corner of my eye this morning:

The Iron
Dean’s Fatal

When I gave it my full attention, I saw that the head was actually:

The Iran
Deal’s Fatal

Later it occurred to me that my own mishearings were also mostly collected in contexts of less than full attention, as in overhearings in public settings while I was engaged in conversation myself.

When I focused my attention

Briefly: cutnpaste

June 18, 2015

In the NYT this morning, in a piece by Katrin Bennhold, “A Young Man’s Path to ISIS Suicide Attack”, the following in my print edition:

Mr. Asmal left his family home over the Easter holidays, just a few weeks before of his final school exams …

Ok, a combo of before and shy or short of, but such combos can arise in many ways. What happened here? This one looked like a cutnpaste error, and so it turned out to be.


Two linguistic comics

June 17, 2015

In my e-mail this morning, two linguistic comics: a One Big Happy and a Mother Goose and Grimm:





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