ERIC Number: ED335917
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991
Folk Etymology (In English and Elsewhere).
Folk etymology is defined as a change in word or phrase form resulting from an incorrect popular idea of its origin or meaning. Irregular phonetic-semantic shifts are produced by inter-language borrowing or by intra-language passage from one period to another. These shifts are more common in periods when there are no, or few, normative factors such as schooling or scholarly preoccupation with language. Both common words and proper names can suffer distortion. For example, English toponymic folk-etymologies may have both diachronic and interlinguistic sources. Deviations may also be caused by archaic grammatical markers that have been preserved as parts of certain names (e.g., Latin "-um" changed to "-ham" in place names). These have survived more in place-names than in common words. Some English two-word phrases have emerged through folk etymology (e.g., "asparagus" to "sparrow grass"). Sometimes folk-etymological deviations may not only be fixed in a receiving language but also become international by subsequent borrowing, with some becoming fixed through inclusion in the dictionary. Even the most serious dictionaries perpetuate old etymological errors. (MSE)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: In: Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics, 1991, v16; see FL 019 402.