Tag Archives: Language Log

Best Eggcorn Ever?

Dinosaur Comics recently turned me on to the Language Log website and the concept of eggcorns, which are mistakes made in writing based on phonetics. For instance, “for all intents and purposes” becomes “for all intense and purposes.” (That particular eggcorn really grinds my goat, but I digress.)
Anyway, I went a-browsing on the eggcorn database and the first specimen I saw made me laugh so hard that milk shot out of my nose (which was pretty impressive, because I was drinking orange juice at the time.)
The eggcorn in question is the substitution of “elk” for “ilk.”
The excerpt reads: “Without addressing these issues, NOW and others have nothing to offer the average Jane and in consequence, have allowed Sarah Palin and her elk to define women’s issues.”
Which is even funnier because the sentence does make sense that way.
Who knows? Maybe it’s not a mistake at all. Maybe Sarah Palin really has a pet elk and they go around defining women’s issues and stuff. I would not put it past her.

PS: Sarah Palin and her Elk sounds like a great title for a children’s book don’t you think? Dibs.

Exception to the Rules

I’ve always hated English. Not the language mind you, the subject. The thing I always hated about it was the fact that there were so many “rules” that I was told I was supposed to follow. But the real problem was that is seemed like there were nearly as many exceptions to the rules as there were rules themselves. It didn’t make sense to me. There were no exceptions to the rules I was taught in math. I never had to deal with “2+2=4 unless the preceding problem is 7-9.”
Now that I’m older I realize why my younger self was so frustrated with the system. Because the truth is, there are no “rules” to the English language; there was never a time when a bunch of professors got together and said, “So we’ve got all these words floating around, and maybe it would be nice to develop a framework of grammar for them to fit into.” Language became what it is through usage. That isn’t to say that there’s no right and wrong way of using language, but the heart of good usage is structure.
For instant, this sentence aren’t going to works in your mind because it ignore basic subject/verb agreement structure.
But the thing is, you don’t need to be taught that what you just read is wrong. You sense it intuitively, because that simply isn’t how people use language. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that English as a subject shouldn’t be taught at all. But I do think there should be far less emphasis on the so-called “rules.” To quote Captain Barbossa “They’re more like guidelines, really.”