Intentional reshaping

Your typical eggcorn arises when someone unintentionally reinterprets the composition of an opaque expression so that the expression makes more sense, either as a whole (as in eggcorn itself) or at least in part (in reshapings that are “demi-eggorns” for some, like b-line for bee-line); the new expression can then spread to other speakers. But such reshapings can also be done intentionally, deliberately, for any of a variety of purposes.

Here, for example, is a reshaping of tisane ‘herbal tea’ to teasan, by way of expressing a connection to (unmodified) tea while maintaining a distinction between the prototypical tea drunk as a beverage and herbal teas: from the Numi company in Oakland CA:

Are You Numi-fied?

HERBAL TEASAN: Herbal “teasan” is the term we use to describe plants that are steeped like tea, but are made from plants other than the camellia sinensis. Numi works directly with farmers to provide 100% organic herbs, fruits and flowers from around the world for our line of traditional teasans. Naturally caffeine free, these can be enjoyed at any time of day for a burst of flavor and reviving treat. (link)

Me. I think this is on the precious side, but let that pass.

(Note Numi-fied, roughly ‘supplied with Numi (teas)’, with the V-forming suffix -ify.)

Varieties: [pun alert!] Berried Treasures (banana, pineapple, cherry, rosehip, currant, apple), to make a [minor portmeanteau alert!] fruitea; chamomile lemon; dry desert lime; green rooibos; honeybush; Moroccan mint; rooibos (or red tea); rooibos chai (with spices)

Two of these plants will be unfamiliar to many:

rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa (link)

Cyclopia, better known by the common name Honeybush, is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family … The leaves of honeybush are commonly used to make tisanes or “herbal teas”. It grows only in small areas in the southwest and southeast of South Africa and has many similarities with rooibos. (link)

Just in case you were thinking that the ti- part of tisane might nevertheless be etymologically related to tea, OED3 (June 2008) tells us that the etymology goes back (through French and Latin) to a word meaning ‘barley-water, medicinal drink made by infusion of herbs’ (because barley water was originally used for these infusions), this < ancient Greek πτισάνη ‘peeled or pearl barley, barley-gruel’. Definition:

A wholesome or medicinal drink: (originally) an infusion made with barley, barley water (now arch. and rare); (subsequently) a medicinal tea or infusion made from herbs. [14th century onward]

The world of intentional “mistakes” is rich indeed, taking in meaning enrichment  (the mock malapropism confuser for computer, as a wry comment on computers), to mock malapropisms of proper names, serving as critiques of the thing named (Mop and Pail for the newspaper name Globe and Mail), to silliness (the mock spoonerism feeping creaturism for creeping featurism), to show-off deliberate portmanteaus (hundreds already noted on this blog and Language Log), and to mock mispellings intended as malicious laughter at people who make such mistakes out of ignorance.


2 Responses to “Intentional reshaping”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    I find the respelling needless, but tisane is a word badly needed in English. Tea is a drink made from the infused leaves of Camellia sinensis. I hate being offered “tea” and having to gag down something brewed from lawn clippings or old socks. Such decoctions should be labeled tisane, never tea.

    I also propose that decaf be dyed blue so that people don’t drink it by mistake.

  2. Doug Harris Says:

    Some eggcorns would seem to be at crossed porpoises from (or with) the truth.

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