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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Expressed Eggcorn

Once again, I was asked if I wanted to become a member of a new torrent site. Once again, I wandered over to have a look. Once again, I had a quick look at the rules. Once again, I read the phrase "expressed wishes of the staff".

Granted, this phrase isn't unique to those who run trackers (google currently yields 91,000 results for the phrase), but a swift trawl through the rules of most trackers will reveal that at least two thirds of 'em will contain this phrase in their rules. This, as far as I can see, can mean one of three things...

  1. The secret cabal that runs all these things needs a more up-to-date dictionary.
  2. Two thirds of all English speakers confuse 'express' the adjective with 'express' the verb
  3. Once upon a time, there was this guy who wrote a set of rules for his tracker and didn't proofread them very carefully. This set of rules was then cut'n'pasted many, many times, and no one as bothered to correct it.
  4. Four. Four things. I'm wrong, and 'expressed wishes' is entirely correct, and is what everyone intended to say.
  5. It's an eggcorn.
 My guess? It's an eggcorn. Also, point 3 above. Internet people love to cut'n'paste.

The term eggcorn arose, I believe, on  LanguageLog, and refers to the mispronunciation of a word or phrase, but one that's plausible. You can see now an acorn, for example, could conceivably be called an eggcorn.

Thing is, though, are 'express' and 'expressed' sufficiently similar that they'd be denied eggcorn status? That, I couldn't answer.

By the way, you might recall my saying previously that I'm no longer irritated by those who use our language incorrectly. Let me add an eggcorn to my list of irritants. Not so much the eggcorn itself, but the number of times it can be found on, a website that really should know better. Clicky.

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