Monday, May 9, 2011

I Have a Head Egg... and other misunderstood words

My last posts on language got me thinking more about the class I took at Tulane on the history of language and its evolution.  That was an informative, useful, and fun class.  One of the activities that we did in this class was to create a list of "vulgarisms" (ways in which proper language usage is changed by popular usage).

There are dozens of ways for language to be vulgarized (there's one now: changing a noun or adjective into a verb).  One that DH hates is the insertion of a non-etymological consonant into a word, such as sherbert instead of sherbet.  Another one is the pronunciation of silent letters, such as the way many non-native English speakers say saLmon.  And one of my biggest pet peeves the misuse of prefixes like irregardless.  (Funny, the spell check feature on blogger fussed at me for sherbert, but it didn't bat an eye at irregardless!  I guess the language has already accepted that one.)

Anyway, what I was really thinking about when I began this post is what we termed in class "ignorant interpretation of unfamiliar expressions."  My title example was one that I used as a kid.  I often had headaches when I was growing up.  I guess the first time I heard the term, I heard head egg.  From then on, every time I had a headache as a child I would envision a fried egg on my brain.  I couldn't explain why that egg made my head hurt so much, but it did.

Today Bumble Baby asked for a "girl cheese sandwich" for lunch.  I said, "Girl cheese sandwich sure."  Then she changed her mind, "No, I want a boy cheese sandwich."  This isn't the first time we've used these terms, but I still find it cute. I'm probably a terrible mother, though, because instead of correcting her I've created a new sandwich.  The girl cheese is your typical grilled sandwich with buttered bread and cheese. The boy cheese sandwich adds thinly sliced apple.

I'll leave you with a few other examples from my class, and I'd love to hear yours.

Muddy Gras, Cars' Way (for the Causeway a bridge in Louisiana), Youth in Asia, doggy-dog world, Yawn Kipper, appleplectic, some roaches in the liver, sick as hell anemia

1 comment:

  1. Most of my irritations come from spelling errors:

    "in the throws of ___"
    "bare with me"

    -things like that.


    [unrelated but major annoyance: "a myriad of ___" rather than "myriad ___"]

    I'm assuming you've read Lynn Truss's books?