In an earlier posting, I reported on an instance of contempt for content, in the expression to your heart’s content. I saw no semantic motivation for the substitution, so I was reluctant to classify the example as an eggcorn (and the substitution hasn’t been discussed on the ecdb site). Instead, the relationship seemed phonological — which would suggest that the example is a classical malapropism originating (as a fair number of CMs do) in a mis-hearing.

Whatever its origins, to one’s heart’s contempt turns out to be surprisingly common. There are thousands of webhits (but none in Google News and only a few in Google Books, so the error doesn’t seem to be spreading into the mainstream), for instance:

… chances are you will be able to scream, yell and panic to your heart’s contempt – briefly – but you won’t be better off for it (link)

“… well, believe what you will, shutter your limited mind to your heart’s contempt.” (Jonathan Kellerman, Self-Defense, p. 428)

So in the mean time…. I am going to travel, play sports, hike and bake to my heart’s contempt ….. (link)

He intended to smoke to his heart’s contempt during this trip. (James W. Foster, Tales of Vollmer’s Hollow, p. 117)

There are also some hits for contempt to VP ‘content to VP’, as in:

The wife was more tired than I and was quite contempt to stay horizontal. So I told her to enjoy her nap … (link)

If it weren’t for the technology being what it is today, I’d be quite contempt to travel back in time – living through the 60s and 70s. (link)

Finally, the reverse substitution, of content for contempt, is attested for in contempt of court, and has been noted in the Eggcorn Forum. A few examples:

Bashir was warned that he might be found in content of court Tuesday if he continues refusing to answer questions. (link)

“The defendant conducted himself with such buffoonery during the beginning of the trial that the judge was forced to hold him in content of court for the remainder of the proceedings.” (link)

The judge indicated the two could be arrested by Federal agents and held in content of court for failure to abide by the injunction. (link)

In the Eggcorn Forum, Peter Forster suggested (on January 7) that the substitution was a cupertino, but commenter nilep doubted this (on January 10) and suggested instead that it was a demi-eggcorn, but even that analysis is dubious, since contempt is a noun while content (with accent on the second syllable) is an adjective; the substitution looks phonologically motivated (again, probably as a result of an initial mis-hearing).

3 Responses to “contempt/content”

  1. Jan Freeman Says:

    Wait, “content” is also a noun, not just an adjective — in fact the OED has “heart’s content” under “content” n. 2. (Still, an odd substitution — I would have thought people knew the meaning of “contempt”.)

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Jan Freeman points out that content (accented on the second syllable) can be a noun (meaning ‘contentedness’) as well as an adjective, a fact that I overlooked. Still, in content of court, with this noun, is semantically bizarre.

  3. Shiva Safari Says:

    Thank you for saving me from writing ‘contempt’ on my blog instead of content. I googled ‘to your heart’s contempt’ because that’s how I had read it many times but it didn’t make sense to me. I stumbled on your blog instantly and found that my intuition hadn’t deceived me.

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