Eggcorns, a new word for misused pears

mistakes with homonyms--fun with homonyms
fun with homonyms

Mixmatched pear of shoes?

Children eventually stop growing. The English language does not.

Most new words catch popular fancy for a while, and then drop out of site.

Quite a few eventually get recognized by major dictionaries.

Merriam-Webster just added 1,700 new words. “Eggcorn” now takes its place alongside malapropism, spoonerism, and mondegreen to describe a losing battle with using or understanding words.

A malapropism substitutes a completely wrong word, as when Mrs. Malaprop (in the third act of The Rivals by Richard Sheridan) declares, “Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!” Not one of the italicized words means anything remotely like what she meant.

Eggcorn, on the other hand, sort of make sense, as when someone refers to “old-timers’ disease” instead of “Alzheimer’s disease. In 2003 a blogger noted that he knew a woman who said “egg corn” instead of “acorn” and that there was no word to describe that kind of mistake.

Linguist Geoffrey Pullam responded that “eggcorn” would be a very appropriate word. Its entry into a major dictionary’s word list indicates that, 12 years after the suggestion, “eggcorn” has demonstrated its usefulness and staying power.

How many of these have you encountered?  Continue reading

Government websites: National Park Service

Yellowstone national park service
Yellowstone national park service

Yellowstone National Park, tent camping

This installment of the occasional series on federal government websites looks at the National Park Service. Travel season will be here before we know it, and the national parks make wonderful vacation destinations.

Nearly everyone knows parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but the National Park Service operates 407 national parks, national monuments, and other properties. Click on “Find a Park” in the header menu to find parks by name, location, activity, and topic. Here are the ones that begin with the letter E.

  • Ebey’s Landing
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Effigy Mounds
  • Eisenhower
  • El Camino Real de los Tejas
  • El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
  • El Malpais
  • El Morro
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Ellis Island
  • Erie Canalway
  • Essex
  • Eugene O’Neill
  • Everglades

Continue reading

Writers write about reading, writing, research

quotation-marks172x172Not everyone who reads is doing research. Not everyone who does research in the broadest sense (looking up useful information) writes about it. But everyone who publishes research must read first.

Indeed, anyone writes anything must read first. A friend of mine wrote an autobiography, and compiled as much documentation as he could find in order to refresh his memory and insure accuracy.

Novelists must not only read other literature voraciously, but if they want respect for their novels, must conduct research to make sure that they describe places, customs, etc. accurately.

Whatever else they write about, writers often write about reading, research and writing. The title of my blog replaces ‘rithmetic in the familiar “three Rs,” but the previous sentence puts them in their logical order for organizing this post. Continue reading

Innovative library services: some kudos and a rant

student writing

student writingLibraries exist to serve the needs of their public. Traditionally they have existed to serve needs for information and entertainment. That accounts for the books, periodicals, computer resources, and audiovisual collections, but not necessarily every service or collection.

The Helen Plum Library in Lombard, Illinois lends out paintings and sculptures. I found the sculptures handy when I was teaching a humanities course, but apparently most people borrow them just to redecorate their homes for a short time.

In earlier posts 3 unusual and unexpected library services and 5 more unusual and unexpected library services I have called attention to unusual ways academic and public libraries have found to serve their patrons. Printing fish? Cooking classes in a professional kitchen?  Here are some more innovative  programs.

School libraries, unfortunately, seem under attack. Too many of the articles I have read still seem to find it unusual that libraries can be anything more than book warehouses. How will today’s children get to know libraries any better if they are denied access to them now? Continue reading

Reference books and sets you must read in print

Bookshelves -- words about lovers of words

reference books in printIn my last post, about editing, I cited my father’s entry in Contemporary Authors, a still-growing set with more than 200 printed volumes.

I couldn’t find the photocopy I made several years ago when I first stumbled across it. I found an online version in WorldCat, but it’s available only at 8 libraries, none within 500 miles of my home. I had to go to a local library to consult the print version.

How many other important reference works are available only in print? Continue reading