a word or phrase that is a seemingly logical alteration of another word or phrase that sounds similar and has been misheard or misinterpreted.
Eggcorn “a seemingly logical alteration of a misheard word or phrase” is a coinage by linguistics professor Geoffrey K. Pullum based on the word acorn. The logic here is that people unfamiliar with the term acorn (from Old English æcern) may mistake the word as a compound of egg and corn because of acorns’ size and shape. An eggcorn is a type of folk etymology based on an honest mistake, as we saw in the etymology for the recent Word of the Day armscye, which is often incorrectly believed to come from “arm’s eye,” after the location and shape of an armscye. What makes something an eggcorn is that, unlike folk etymology proper, which results in a change to a word or phrase based on a nearly universal misconception, eggcorns tend to reflect common mistakes at the individual level—no matter how widespread these mistakes may be—that do not change the spelling of the mistaken word or phrase. Also important is that eggcorns are based on logical misunderstandings, so not every gross misspelling on the average social media feed qualifies as an eggcorn. While eggcorn is attested as early as the early 19th century, its present sense dates from 2003.
Whether step foot in is, or originally was, an eggcorn has been hotly but inconclusively debated. However, no one argues that set foot in is anything other than standard English. So step foot in is one of those phrases that we’re probably better off not using even though there’s little reason to object if others use them.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote …. “the Congress we’re about to get will be its [predecessor’s] spit and image: familiar faces, timeworn histrionics, unending paralysis.” Spit and image? …. Did Bruni just drop an eggcorn in America’s journal of record? …. As Language Log points out, he didn’t drop (lay?) an eggcorn at all. In fact, “spit and image” is the older version of the expression. Both may be alterations of an earlier form, “spitten image.”
unchecked freedom or ease; unrestraint; looseness.
Laisser-aller “unchecked freedom or ease” is a direct borrowing from French, in which the phrase means “to allow to go.” Laisser “to let, allow” ultimately comes from Latin laxus “loose,” which is the source of English relax, release, and relish and is a distant cognate of English slack “not tight.” The story of aller “to go” is a bit more complicated. Aller is a suppletive verb, which means that several of its inflected forms originated as borrowings from other words; while the infinitive form aller may derive either from a Celtic source or from Latin ambulāre “to walk,” the present and future forms vais “I go” and irai “I will go” come from Latin vādere and īre, respectively, both of which mean “to go.” In English, one common suppletive verb is go (with its past tense form, went, borrowed from wend “to proceed”), and suppletion is found as well with the adjectives good and bad (with comparative forms better and worse and superlative forms best and worst derived from different roots). Laisser-aller was first recorded in English in the early 19th century.
Zoom dressing is “something the French worry about,” said Manon Renault, an expert in the sociology of fashion. “Especially Parisians, who feel they represent elegance.” And while a certain laisser-aller recently had the conservative weekly Madame Figaro fretting about whether home-wear habits would drag fashion “into a tailspin,” interviews with a range of Parisians suggest a compromise of sorts had been reached.
Alvanley had a delightful recklessness and laisser aller in everything. His manner of putting out his light at night was not a very pleasant one for his host for the time being. He always read in bed, and when he wanted to go to sleep he either extinguished his candle by throwing it on the floor in the middle of the room, and taking a shot at it with the pillow, or else quietly placed it, when still lighted, under the bolster.
a fossil footprint.
Ichnite “a fossil footprint” is a compound of the combining form ichno- “track, footstep” and the suffix -ite, which is often found in terms for minerals and fossils. Ichno- derives from Ancient Greek íchnos “track,” which is of uncertain origin, though hypotheses that lack wide acceptance include connections to Ancient Greek oíkhomai “to go away, leave, disappear,” to various Slavic words related to bodily wounds and cavities, and to Ancient Greek aikhmḗ “spear point.” Perhaps the best-known derivation of íchnos, for those of you with a passion for Ancient Greek literature, is Ichneutae, the name of a play by Sophocles that is also known variously as Searchers or Trackers in English. Ichnite was first recorded in English in the early 1850s.
In most cases, a fossil footprint, also known as an ichnite, represents evidence that has not moved over time while a bone or tooth could have been transported to the site under study and therefore be out of context .… A footprint or ichnite can reflect the basic shape of the dinosaur’s foot, the number of toes, and to some extent, the mechanics of how the dinosaur carried its weight.
Just as trackways consisting of true footprints in many cases may end in a particular ichnite for reasons that are not obvious, … they may be so faint that the researcher has difficulties drawing accurate print outlines …. The basic features of the ichnites in La Rioja are simple. Tetrapod footprints made by turtles, pterosaurs, crocodiles, and dinosaurs have been found.
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