acyrologia

Recently from friends on Facebook:

From one friend: “this looks as though it could be described as an eggcornucopia”. Well, no, not without understanding eggcorn as meaning ‘word error’, which would be a bad move.

The Wiktionary entry:

From Latin, from Ancient Greek ἀκυρολογία (akurología), α- (a-, “not”) + κυρος (kuros, “authority”), λογια (logia, “speech”). 1. (rhetoric) inexact, inappropriate or improper use of a word. 2. malapropism.

We already have an expression for this great grab-bag of “mistakes” in language: word error. It covers spelling errors of many types, word confusions, inadvertent errors in word retrieval (based on sound or meaning), mishearings, misapprehensions of standard usage, semantic reversals, reanalysis of existing words for greater semantic transparency, and more. Different types have different histories, different psychological statuses, and different social concomitants. As a result, word error isn’t a particularly useful term, so that having a fancy Greek synonym for it is of no utility at all.

But some people think that giving something a Greek or Latin name automatically elevates it, makes it serious and scientific.

An alternative strategy is to take an established label for one specific type of word error and use it for all word errors, thus undoing the careful analytic work of psycholinguists and sociolinguists. I’ve been decidedly waspish on the subject. From my 11/9/14 posting “Word errors”, on right from the gecko:

A delightful error (evoking an entertaining image), and surely a type of classical malapropism (CM) — a type I’ll label a Ruthie (after the character of that name in the comic strip One Big Happy) — but not an instance of the subtype of CM known in the error literature as an eggcorn

… Lots of people love the term eggcorn — it’s cute and it’s memorable — and they want it to be an all-purpose synonym for word error. If that’s what they want, I can’t stop them. But then they’re just not talking about linguistics, and I will have no part of it.

 

 

3 Responses to “acyrologia”

  1. Bigmacbear Says:

    I suspected not all of those were eggcorns when I wrote the post, but the portmanteau of “eggcornucopia” was just too good to pass up.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    I think “star-craving mad” (which I love) would count as an eggcorn if it had arisen accidentally, which I suspect it has not.

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