out way

On ADS-L on the 8th, Geoff Nunberg reported this reanalysis of outweigh, from a comment on an article at Atlantic.com:

Emotion and logic are not of equal value. Does not science and the collective efforts of humanity qualify as a higher form of discourse? The needs of the many out way the feelings of a few.

It turned out that Google gives over 400 actual hits for “out way the”, the vast majority of them involving reanalyses of outweigh. It’s hard to see this as a garden-variety eggcorn (how could it be an improvement in semantics?), so the ADS-Lers considered other possibilities; in particular, from Dan Goncharoff:

Do we have any idea how many eggcorns [well, reanalyses — AMZ] today are generated by speech-to-text programs? I imagine lots of educated users who can’t be bothered to fix errors on their phones or tablets.

An intriguing idea. Surely this must happen, even if out way turns out not to be an example.

In any case, more technology-caused errors, first cousins to cupertinos.

The error out way isn’t in the Eggcorn Database, though (as Ben Zimmer pointed out) the ECDB does have, under weigh > way, “way anchor,” “anchors away,” and “way in (on)”; and in the other direction, under way > weigh, “fall by the weigh side,” “weigh-lay,” and “weigh station”.

Now, cupertinos. From Wikipedia:

The Cupertino effect is the tendency of a spell checker to suggest or autocorrect with incorrect words to replace misspelled words and words not in its dictionary.

This term refers to the unhyphenated English word “cooperation” often being changed to “Cupertino” by older spell checkers with dictionaries containing only the hyphenated variant, “co-operation”.

It’s become common to refer to incorrections resulting from spellchecker actions as cupertinos.

Now, speech-to-text conversion. The technology has been around for quite some time, pursued especially by IBM; the best-selling speech recognition software on the market now seems to be Dragon NaturallySpeaking or DNS (available for about 35 years).

But this world changed enormously with the development of Apple’s “virtual personal assistant” Siri for iPhones, which incorporates dictation-taking software. At that point, new types of software-generated errors became very likely, since catching errors in natural language recognition consumes time in a medium where users value speed.

What should we call them? On the model of cupertino, we should look for entertaining errors in dictation, in DNS or Siri. Suggestions?

2 Responses to “out way”

  1. Drew Smith Says:

    We could call them “dragon eggs”.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    “Weigh station” appears on many highway signs, referring to pull-offs (which always seem to be closed, at least on the roads that I travel) where tucks can be weighed; so it’s unsurprising if people adopt it for general use.

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