Why Not “Approxinym”?

A while back CPA and County Commissioner and faithful reader and commentator Marshall Faircloth pointed out correctly that two words that I had shown as often mixed up were not truly “homonyms.”  And that is true of a number of such confusions, including a couple that I will get to a bit later.

Let me say again that the useful word “malapropism” does not refer just to exact homonym errors but to errors (most often in oral speech from, in earlier days at least, the uneducated/illiterate) in confusing two words that are similar in sound but widely variant in spelling and meaning.  Such confusions might include “ironing” for “irony” or “Oldtimer’s” for “Alzheimer’s.”

I suggest that we adopt a new term,  “approxinym,” for such confusions or misusages.  Here again are some that have leapt off the pages of text as I’ve perused the local newspaper or scanned the print on my monitor’s screen.

(1)  Here is an occasional columnist (for the second time recently, as I recall) using an “approxinym” while writing about the feature story from “Time” that dealt with the poor test scores of American public school students:  “What did surprise me in this article is the explanation that the biggest attributing factor for this failure is ineffective teaching.”  Did you locate right away the problem? 

Here are several more, for which I’ve given what I would consider the misusage as found in the source as printed or written:

(2)  In a Letter to the Observer offering sarcastic commentary about the Hope Mills Dam and Lake Project:  “Surely, such a sight will convenience one and all, that the $12 million spent to bring this monumental masterpiece into being was money well spent.”

(3)  Several years ago, in a letter to Chief Editorial Writer Gene Smith of the Observer,  I commented on a staff report from the “Saturday Extra” section that spoke about Dr. Valerie Wynne-Hall’s new dental offices on South Main street as having a “consolation room.”  (I could be wrong here in my assumption about wrongness.)

(4) In a recent story about homeowners in the area saving money by refinancing their homes:  “Gilbert said with closing costs, homeowners who plan to sell within a couple of years may not have enough time to recuperate their expenses.”

(5) And finally, from a University Newswire report about the groundbreaking for a Holiday Express in Pembroke:  “‘Despite the economic downturn,  I am proud that the investors have not waivered because they saw the need for a hotel in this community,’ Dr.  Cummings said.”

Have fun!  I hope to be back fairly often for the nonce and then some with some more peckish quibbles and quandaries involving our wondrous, shared tongue, which admittedly at times becomes a bit twisted.



16 Responses to “Why Not “Approxinym”?”

  1. pen Says:

    Have you ever heard the term “eggcorn”?
    Hit this link to the wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggcorn

  2. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    “Eggcorn” as defined above kind of fits what the Prof is talking about. Good job pen.

    ‘Approxinym’ sounds like a new wonder drug. Perhaps for treating a Paroxysm?

    In the above quotes, I’ve often seen ‘contributed’ substituted for ‘attributed’ but not the reverse as above. Sight, site and cite are confused all the time. Wavered and waivered are easily confused, but I see no reason to confuse ‘consultation’ with ‘consolation’ or ‘recoup’ with ‘recuperate.’

    If you check out pen’s reference above, you see ‘baited breath’ vs. ‘bated breath’ as another great example.

  3. Raymond Rundus Says:

    So “eggcorn” is a fringe substitute for “acorn”? So I gather.

    In response to your keen observations, Marshall, and from the perspective of having taught Freshman Composition for somethink close to thirty years, I would say this:
    (1) the most often confused words in writing are “its” and “it’s.”
    (2) the next most confused words are perhaps those in which three (and sometimes four) homonyms or approxinyms come into play, such as these: “there, their, and they’re” (especially so) your example of “sight, site, and cite” (and perhaps even, rarely, the approxinym “sighed”) “scent, sent, and cent” (and sometimes in spoken English we hear “since” and “sense” and “cents” being indistinct from each other, esp. in the Southern U.S.)
    (3) a colleague with a Ph.D. in history once fessed up to me that he had never been able to completely master the difference between “affect” and “effect” and these two are indeed often mixed up, especially in writing.
    (4) the recent misuse I cited of “recuperate” for “recoup” (from a journalism professional, no less) was new to me. And in a communication read online, I was surprised to fine “bought” being used for a spell of serious illness instead of “bout.”
    Keep ’em coming! Where is that fellow known as “Dink” lately? And how about breakfast downtown or near it on Friday morning, January 30?

  4. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    The first rule in English is that English defies all the rules of English! The tax code is pallid by comparison to the colorful laws of English.

    As a college freshman, I wrestled with it’s vs. its. What the heck, doesn’t the apostrope show possession? Crazy! I also learned very quickly about comma splices.

  5. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Eggcorn, is that something we can have for breakfast on the 30th! Please give us a location and time I’ll put the word out for more to join! I need a brain food and that my help!!

    Actually, I’ve tried to get better in writing and all that goes with it. I can proof something and send it a later wonder how I could have gotten it so messed up. I feel better about myself if I don’t try to hide my weakness but not hide behind it. Mostly I think it is genuine ignorance and I’m still working on it! That is to improve!! Emprove/improve is simple but I checked it in the dictionary. It’s drives me “Crazy” and it looks like a life time ride!!

    I’m the worst for what is called “Sneaky Words”! That sneak up on your report card and you feel like beating yourself up!

    Those that speak Engish as a second lanuage is from from having geniue ingnorance. I talk my hat off to those that speak a second language,period.

    It takes me a long time to even send this and get it half way right.

    Dr. Rundus you’re( Is it you are or you’re) a great friend and thanks for sticking by me!
    Commissioner Faircloth keep figureing it out we all need some answers!!
    Frank “Dink” Maness

  6. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    May not my= see what I’m talking about Send it later and!!! from from I take my hat off–

    I’m sure I missed more than that!!

    Have a great 2009
    FBM Jr.

  7. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Frank: You can talk your hat off anytime you want!

  8. Forest Crump Says:

    “…Dr. Valerie Wynne-Hall’s new dental offices on South Main street as having a ‘consolation room.’ ” That’s the room where you get the cheep prize.

    Too funny

    “…recuperate their expenses.” Well they could bring their expenses back to health.

    I posted a blog about ‘poll’ dancing should be an Olympic sport. Not until after I had posted it did I notice my mistake. The English language gets too damn confusing to us mere mortals. If the # 4 is spelled four and the preposition is spelled for—then why the heck is 40 spelled forty and not fourty? Why can backyard be a compound word and not frontyard? It seems discriminatory to me.

    Language evolves and changes over time. I never really understood Shakespeare’s love sonnets until I had the luxury of spending several mornings with a British gentleman sitting under the gazebo overlooking Waimea Bay and listen to him read a few sonnets each morning, until he had read all of them in sequence.

    Then I began to see how the writer goes from this passionate love, to hating the woman. In school, we would read and maybe discuss one or two isolated sonnets no one ever explained how the sonnets go from the birth of a relationship to the demise of one.

  9. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Forest Crump, join us for breakfast!!

  10. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Think I need to check out Mr. Rundus more often. Just might learn a thing or two.
    Frank, what color is that hat today, lol?

  11. Forest Crump Says:

    Frank, thanks for the invite, I would love to join you guys for breakfast. As far as I know I will be able to, presently I am retired and looking for a job and given the state of the economy, I probably will still be unemployed on the 30th.

  12. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Forest Grump!! We will be meeting Jan. 30 @ The Haymount Grill @ 8:15 AM!! I’ll wear a pink cap!!!

  13. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Forest Crump’s comments were interesting. I see why he was perpetually confused about the spelling of “forty” when the number 4 was spelled “four.”
    After checking with my dictionary, I do see that “back yard” is an alternate form for “backyard,” and so would seem not to be a true compound word. However, neither “frontyard” nor “front yard” are listed as words in and of themselves and so Mr. “Crump” would seem to have it right. This would mean also, is suppose, that we all understand what the acronym “NIMBY” means (and it conveniently can be pronounced by itself as if a word) while we would be, I guess, nonplussed by “NIMFY.”

  14. Raymond Rundus Says:

    “Approxinyms” and “malpropisms” can be a source of linguistic risibility (that is, we tend to be amused, in part because we are relieved that we “know better”).
    The most amusing mix-up of this sort , say I, was reported as fact by “The New Yorker” a number of years ago in one of its squibs. Someone wrote (while Princess Diana was still wed to the “heir apparent”) that Camilla Parker Bowles was Prince Charles’s “power mower.”

  15. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Once again we should all study Latin. Power is of course from the Latin, ‘par’, meaning ‘by’, and ‘mower’ from ‘amour’ meaning ‘love’. I can’t believe “The New Yorker” didn’t pick up on that. 😉

    My favorite, ok my 2nd favorite (I emailed you my first): I think it was someone like a George Meaney or Richard Daley, the elder who said, “we must strive to higher and higher platitudes.”

  16. How to Get Six Pack Fast Says:

    If you ever want to hear a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this post for 4/5. Decent info, but I have to go to that damn yahoo to find the missed parts. Thank you, anyway!

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