Zits language

Today’s Zits, in which Sara enchants Jeremy with her language:

It’s a triple play: the eggcorn cold slaw, the pronunciation ezackly, and the idiom blend Achilles’ tooth.

Cold slaw is incredibly common. Here’s Brians’s Common Errors on the subject:

The popular salad made of shredded cabbage was originally “cole slaw,” from the Dutch for “cabbage salad.” Because it is served cold, Americans have long supposed the correct spelling to be “cold slaw”; but if you want to sound more sophisticated go with the original.

It’s been discussed several times in the Eggcorn Forum but hasn’t been moved to the ecdb yet.

Then exackly, with two phonological simplifications: /gz/ > /z/ and /kt/ > /k/ at the end of a syllable. The second is a run-of-the-mill casual speech reduction, but the first is less widespread and is socially marked. Still, it’s not uncommon, and is occasionally indicated even in spelling, as here:

What ezactly are the CA mudflap laws? (link)

What ezactly happens in boot camp for the Navy? (link)

Then there’s Sara’s masterpiece, Achilles’ tooth, a blend of Achilles’ heel and sweet tooth. This one occurs as a deliberate invention:

My Achilles … Tooth? My sweet tooth is my Achilles heel. (link)

and as a play on Achilles’ heel:

I think the flaw should be an Achilles Tooth. If it gets chipped, he dies. (link)

But I haven’t found any unintentional occurrences.

10 Responses to “Zits language”

  1. Greg Lee Says:

    Despite what Brians says, you don’t sound more sophisticated by saying “cole slaw”; you sound like you’re saying “cold slaw”.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Brians is talking about spelling, specifically. And using sound in a (very common) extended fashion to mean ‘give a specific impresssion’ (as in “When you write like that, you sound ignorant”). But you knew that.

  2. More Zits language « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Zits language […]

  3. Cole slaw « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] follow-up to the first “Zits language” posting, which had cold slaw for cole slaw (an eggcorn that is now in the ecdb). This will take us some […]

  4. Private meanings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] so that, though private in one sense, they can be reasonably frequent. Eggcorns are similar; cold slaw for older cole slaw is such a natural re-shaping that it was probably created many times […]

  5. Dutchman Says:

    Shouldn’t it have been “coleslaw”, closer to the original “koolsla”? In Dutch, that’s one word – there’s a nasty trend of imitating English and separating the elements of a word, but to a linguist, that hurts the eye.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      What happens to borrowings from other languages into English is a matter of English speakers’ feelings about their language, and these often differ from the conventions of the source language and the feelings of the speakers of that language. In the case of Dutch koolsla, according to the OED, the compound appeared in English spelled solid, hyphenated, *and* separated, on different occasions — as is the case for a huge number of native compounds. I can’t see why an English-speaking linguist should be offended by any of these variants. Certainly, no linguist would insist that borrowings must reproduce all the characteristics of an expression in another language; that’s a position sometimes taken by non-linguists, though.

  6. Dutchman Says:

    Arnold, I was referring not to an English-speaking linguist, but to a Dutch linguist. In English, I can see arguments for both (or all three) cases. In Dutch, some people might nowadays write “kool sla”, which is just wrong.
    As a linguistic joke, using the compound version instead of the separated may not make a difference to an English linguist, but a Dutch linguist would have one extra laugh.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Here’s the problem: you just said “linguist”, not “Dutch linguist”, and you said it in connection with a bit on the spelling of the compound in English.

      If you wanted to say that you were annoyed by the importation of the English separated spelling into Dutch, you could just have said that.

  7. realtortechissuesforthenovice Says:

    Was researching cold slaw vs hot slaw. One now discontinued blog said no such thing has hot slaw. Wrong! I have 4 PA DUTCH recipes sitting in front of me in cookbook from Economy PA. That led me to research on cold vs cole slaw and to your site. Kalt slaw or German for cold slaw. Love derivations of food etc.

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