Eggcornish note: fragrant abuse

Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words site carried this item today (in newsletter #660):

The sweet smell of failure: a large number of news outlets reported the sentencing on Tuesday of Ian Clement, a former deputy mayor of London, for fiddling his expenses. (Margaret Chandler read it on Yahoo! news.) Many of the reports noted: “Sentencing Clement, the judge said he ‘fragrantly and arrogantly’ abused public money to indulge himself with meals.” Did the judge really say that, or did the Press Association (which wrote and circulated the story) make a mistake and nobody queried it?

The comment assumes that fragrant abuse was an inadvertent error on the part of either the judge or the journalists reporting the story. If the first, then it was a “Fay/Cutler malapropism”, an error in retrieving the intended word (and getting a phonologically similar word instead), or possibly a slip in pronunciation, perhaps with an anticipation of the /r/ in flagrantly. If the second, then it was a simple typo, perhaps with an anticipation of the R in arrogantly.

But there’s another possibility, namely that the mistake was advertent: fragrantly was just what the judge intended to say. That would make the mistake a “classical malapropism”, perhaps of the eggcorn variety (with fragrant substituted for flagrant because it contributes a meaning component of strong smell).

The eggcorn analysis seems unlikely in the case of the judge, who should be long familiar with the word flagrant ‘conspicuously or obviously offensive’. But there’s some evidence that some writers intend the word fragrant in expressions like fragrant abuse.

You can google up a moderate number of occurrences of fragrant abuse. Some are plays on words (“Perfumiers scent an end to a fragrant abuse”), but others appear to be straightforward:

Is this a fragrant abuse?? Either way, yes Tony deserves a medal, and a cheque…  (link)

The image above comes into my mind every time I hear a Republican complaining about President Obama not having fixed the economy “already” in only seven months in office, after EIGHT years of their fragrant abuse against it, … (link)

This is the end of my rant about Hollywood and their portrayal of technology and computing. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for any fragrant abuse of what is real and just plain absurd … (link)

(Not mentioned on the eggcorn site or in Brians’s Common Errors.)

A fair nunber of the hits are from Nigerian sources, e.g.:

On the frontline of the protests is the Mubi Community Awareness Forum (MCAF), a socio-political group which wants the embattled Rector removed from office and prosecuted for alleged fragrant abuse of the American and Nigerian currencies as well as sundry other offences ranging from misappropriation of public funds, abuse of office, and conversion of official property to personal use. (link)

These suspects accuse EFCC operatives of asking for bribe; torture and fragrant abuse of human right. I have always taken these as the ranting of desperate men in quest of justice. But my visit to 15A Awolowo Road Ikoyi, gave me first hand information about the level of rot in EFCC. (link)

It looks like fragrant abuse has spread in Nigerian publications. Of course, the original flagrant abuse also appears in these publications.

One Response to “Eggcornish note: fragrant abuse”

  1. Kem Says:

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