Monday, September 2, 2013

Touble* (for Trouble*)

In the musical words of Stephen Foster: "'Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave / 'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore / 'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave / Oh! Hard Times come again no more..." If hardship can mean trouble, then can hard times lead to "troubleship"? I love unintended neologisms like that one, which I heard somebody say on TV the other night: "We have enough troubleship with social media right now..." Such solecisms seem to me more fanciful than troubling, really, and not all that hard to parse. I've dubbed these semantical mash-ups and mix-ups "conflated idioms" and, not to go looking for trouble, but I have started keeping a little list, which currently includes the following: to churn (i.e., turn) one's stomach (actually, some say these two are synonymous, while others say only the contents of one's stomach churn, while things outside the stomach turn it); to pan (palm? hand? pawn?) something off; to pony over (pony up/fork over); to rake up (i.e., rake in/shore up?); "that was the crutch of their case" (crux/using something as a crutch); "I think I hit a fine tooth there" (hit a nerve/teeth have nerves/a fine-tooth comb?); "vanished into thin blue air" (this one could be legit, but to me it seems like it should be either vanished into thin air, or out of the blue); "You're trying to pull one over on me" (put one over on me/pull the wool over my eyes); "the two families were quick friends" (the speaker said they had made friends quickly, then referred to them as "fast friends"); to toy around with (toy with/play around with), etc., etc. Bubble, bubble, toil, and touble*! There were 16 cases of our typo here making trouble in OhioLINK, and 196 in WorldCat.

(Ships in Distress in a Heavy Storm, also known as The man-of-war 'Ridderschap' and 'Hollandia' on the rocks during a storm in the Strait of Gibraltar, by Ludolf Bakhuizen, circa 1690, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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