Valentime’s Day

A week of holidays: lunar New Year on the 10th, Mardi Gras today (the 12th), and Valentine’s Day on the 14th. Last year, for the last of these Mark Liberman posted this Frazz cartoon:

along with two links indicating that others had noticed this pronunciation (and the corresponding spelling) and objected to it: a Facebook page “It’s ValenTINE’s Day not ValenTIME’s Day” and a Yahoo! answers page “WHY WHY WHY do people say Happy “ValenTIMES” Day when it’s ValenTINES Day…?” (the answers there are profoundly unsatisfying). The expression isn’t in the Eggcorn Database — for reasons that are made clear in discussion in the Eggcorn Forum.

From Peter Forster on February 13th, 2009:

I hear this every year and there are hundreds of ughits but whether it really has an eggcornish aspect is doubtful – I submit it because it has the slight merit of being topical [note the date]. People do talk of “Christmas time” and “Easter time” so it is just possible that Valentime/s could limbo under the eggcornicity pole

with a selection of examples, including:

14 Feb 2006 … I say valentimes because that’s the way I always said it as a kid. valentimes—as in, it’s time for VALENS. bring on the valens. (link)

Found a date for valentime yet?  (link)

I just hate when adults say Valentimes day. It’s cute when kids do it. I work with a woman who says it like that. (link)

Forster rationalized the time part of Valentime, but the first example shows why the expression is a dubious candidate for eggcornhood: the remainder, valen, makes no sense. That would make it a demi-eggcorn, a reshaping of an expression

in which one or more parts of an expression are re-spelled so as to replace opaque parts by recognizable lexical material, but without any noticeable improvement in the semantics; what gives rise to them is a drive to find familiar elements as much as possible. (link)

That from a Language Log posting on cow-tow for kow-tow, which also mentioned beyond the pail for beyond the pale and also southmore for sophomore. On this blog, demi-eggcorns come up with some regularity, some involving phonological reshapings (like southmore) that go beyond re-spelling:

jute box for juke box, jute joint for juke joint (link)

up and Adam for up and at ’em (link)

Dungeoness crab for Dungeness crab (link)

in an aside, cray (or possibly Cray) paper for crepe paper (link)

gypsum weed for jimson weed (link)

high-ena for hyena (link)

and once again, cow-tow for kow-tow (link)

A reminder: people are ingenious, and no doubt there are some who have found ways to fully rationalize the reshaped expressions — finding pails in beyond the pail, positing someone named Cray for cray paper, connecting gypsum weed to the mineral gypsum, and possibly even supposing that there’s a now-obsolete word valen referring to the greeting cards customarily exchanged on Valentimes Day. That would make these expressions eggcorns for these speakers (but demi-eggcorns for other speakers).

The reshaping of Valentine surely begins with phonological closeness of /n/ and /m/, especially  as syllable codas, where their phonetic realizations are very close indeed. That allows tine to be heard as time, which makes some sense in connection with a holiday.


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