Mistakenly inferring the spelling of a phrase you've only heard.

Actually, mistakenly inferring the origin of an idiom, which leads to a mispelling which is honest enough. (There is just no graceful way to say that.)

I read science fiction voraciously. And, since many books are so danged cheap on Kindle, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff by newer or younger authors. I guess there’s a lot of idioms that used to be commonly seen in print because they were current, and then as they passed out of fashion they were mostly used by older people in speaking. So the younger folks have heard these phrases, and sometimes have interesting ideas about how they’re spelled.

For instance, one of my personal pet peeves is “reign in.” When they mean, “rein in.” I guess far fewer people drive horses around on a daily basis anymore.

BUT the reason I’m posting is that I saw a new one today: “suped-up.”
Unless it was a simple typo (and the book seemed to be otherwise well-proofread), the author was probably assuming “suped-up” like, “to be made super.”

I’m assuming that the actual idiom “souped-up” is related to the wicked mixtures of fuel they would use in hot-rods for maximum performance.

That is all.:slight_smile:

According to m-w.com, it’s older than that even.

I have a couple of anecdotes that bear on the general topic.

One has to do with that omnpresent vine that grows almost everywhere in the Southern United States and will eventually cover anything in its path, including telephone lines, tractors and even houses. Only having heard its name pronounced (I was in my late teens at the time) I looked at every imaginable spelling in the dictionary with no luck. I don’t remember exactly what the clue was to cause me to look in the “K” section.

Another has to do with the time I was just starting my very brief career in radio. I was announcing an Ellington/Basie tune called “Segue in C” and having never equated the spelling with its pronunciation I said something like “see-gy” or maybe even just “seeg” and apparently either nobody was listening, or if they were they didn’t call to correct me. (I may have even had the notion to start spelling it Segue Heil!") It was quite some time later when I heard somebody mention a “segway” that I managed to look it up correctly. Delayed embarrassment!

Those are by no means all of my fox passes, but that’s enough of a hijack, I suppose.

The Kingdom of Amateur Public Radio Announcers’ Mispronunciations abound with the likes of Claude deBussie, Camille Saint-Sains, and (admittedly, in a slightly lower tier of wrong) RALPH Vaughn-Williams. Don’t sweat it. :slight_smile:

Your commiseration is appreciated but I had one that nearly got me fired. The local name of Bethshears looked straightforward enough but when I pronounced as it appeared on the page (no guide for another one) the boss came storming in and called me everything but a child of God and said something to the effect of, “Don’t you know anything? It’s Buh-sheers!” My meek reply was something along the lines of, “You miserable excuse for a human being, why didn’t you spell it that way?” After the dust settled I still had a job, but not much of an ego.

While we’re at it, how would you pronounce “Dwyane”?

Here’s the Word Detective’s take on it from an old column. Summary: it is “souped up”, but probably got popular because it suggested “super”.

It seems like what you’re describing is a subset of eggcorns. Eggcorns don’t necessarily have to sound exactly the same as the original phrase though, just similar enough to arise from a mishearing.

I had been at my fancy Ivy League University for about 6 months when my roommate finally got up the nerve to ask me, “What is that word “seeg” that you’re always using?” That little misunderstanding was cleared up when I spelled it for her, but it took quite a while for me to live it down (I still cringe at that word).

I just this week finally looked up demense, after years and years of reading historical fiction and fantasy.

Guess what? It’s not pronounced day-mensss.

I just recently had a hand-to-forehead moment reading a forum (this one, probably) where I learned that what in my mind was “thirty-ot-six” was really “thirty-aught-six” – which makes a hell of a lot more sense! Fortunately, I’d never needed to write it, saving myself embarrassment (until now).

WhyNot: you mean “demesne?” I love that word! That’s where you find yer denizens, in yer demesne! Occupants, however, you will find in your oeuvre. :cool:

A friend of mine once wrote a post using the word “ofe” and I was quite confused. When I asked him about it, I had to explain to him that it is actually spelled “au fait.”

Update: in the subsequent book, “suped-up” was corrected.

However, “grizzly” was substituted for “grisly” twice; and one instance of “sheer” for “shear.” (as in wind shear.) These smell like spell-checker errors to me. I don’t use spell checking because it’s a big PITA and while I make the occasional typo, it’s hardly ever that I actually misspell something.

Do spell-checkers always suggest a homonym, on the theory of just-in-case? Do they use some kind of algorithm comparing the frequency of one spelling over the other in literature? I can picture that with “sheer.” But not really with “grizzly.”

Hmm, maybe I’ll turn spell checking on for the purpose of an experiment.

Unless he meant “ofay!” hee hee hee. --No shit, it’s in the dictionary.

Yes, that! It is also not pronouned day-mess-knee! :smack:

Okay, I’m typing grisly. Now I’m typing grizzly. Grisly scene of horror. Grizzly bear. Shear. Depending on the shear. Sheer grizzly horror. Wind sheer. Nope, none of these things were flagged. Maybe the author or editor is dyslexic with homonyms, lol.

I’ve used “ennui” many times in writing over the years but always pronounced it enn-you-I in my head and was surprised to find out that it was “on-wee” which I always thought was a different word alltogether.

Star / Like / Thumbs Up / “This.”

I looked at your link there. A few pages of it. Allow me to say, “AAAUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!” And also “AAAUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!”

Stuff like that there will drive me crazy hella fast.
In case you’re interested, spell check, which I haven’t turned back off yet, flagged eggcorn, AAAUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH, and hella. Really, you’d think hella at least would be semi-sanctioned by now.

My favorite: “social leopard.” Oh yeah, I want to be one of those!

I worked with a guy who kept saying “wheel barrel.”

It all comes down to reading; if you read, you know how to spell.