2

I am interested in cataloguing the most common malapropisms in current spoken English. Examples would be mistakes like tenet/tenant, pundit/pundint, specific/pacific, etc. Does anyone know of a resource or site that lists these by frequency?

9
  • 1
    Resource requests are usually considered off-topic on the main site but sometimes entertained on the meta site. I’ve voted to migrate your question there.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 13 at 14:23
  • 1
    I see. I didn't realize that.
    – kandyman
    Aug 13 at 14:27
  • 1
    Did you already try looking? You may also want to consider 'eggcorns' which are are a similar kind of error. You may want to start with some ones that you've heard of, ie make your own list of ones you think are common) and then do google searches on phrases including them and identical phrases but with the malapropism substituted and look at the # of google hits. Do the same using Google NGrams (this isn't perfect - you need to look at the examples it returns and multiple pages of the hits).
    – Mitch
    Aug 13 at 16:48
  • 1
    Oh, you said 'spoken'? That's going to be much tougher to do than written. It's pretty tough for -any- frequency question. All my comments are implicitly saying I don't expect there to be an easy reference for this and that you might need to create it yourself.
    – Mitch
    Aug 13 at 16:49
  • 1
    Part of the difficulty with this request is that one or both words in a frequently confused word pair (such as "affect"/"effect," "healthful"/"healthy," "imply"/"infer," and "nauseous"/"nauseated") may eventually acquire dictionary approval for the meaning(s) that once (according to earlier dictionaries) properly applied only to the other word in the pair—at which point they can hardly be malapropisms. Language is a moving target in this respect, and—with usage as their guide—dictionaries may someday accept "conscious" as a variant of "conscience," "climatic" as a variant of "climactic," etc.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 13 at 22:35
  • 1
    I once saw a book "the ants are my friends" containing a variety of eggcorns, malapropisms, mondegreens, etc.
    – Peter
    Aug 14 at 1:25
  • Yes, one difficulty is that identifying the mistake requires context. Just 'tenant' on its own is not a mistake - it is only apparent as an error when spoken in a phrase like "the tenants of his religion". I suppose my request was me wondering whether anyone had done this before and if there were some resources available from previous work people had done on it. I feel a research project coming on...
    – kandyman
    Aug 14 at 14:19
  • btw this is coming from an English teacher who is interested in collecting the most common malapropisms so that I can caution my students against using the words incorrectly - so an extensive list isn't necessary. But I was curious about the frequency so that I could focus only on the top 50 or something like that.
    – kandyman
    Aug 14 at 14:24
  • @SvenYargs healthful/healthy have been interechangeable since the 16th Century. Aug 17 at 16:15
2

I don't know of a -frequency- sorted list of such mistakes. But:

  • You may also want to consider eggcorns which are are a similar kind of error as malapropisms.
  • You may want to start by listing some eggcorns, malapropisms, or other mistakes that you yourself have heard of, ie make your own list of ones you think are common, or google for a list (there are many recognized ones, you may want to pare down the list).
  • Do a google search or google NGram search on such phrases including them and identical phrases but with the malapropism substituted and look at the # of google hits. For example,

copmarison of 'for all intents and purposes' vs 'for all intensive purposes'

This isn't perfect - you need to look at the examples it returns and multiple pages of the hits to confirm that things are being found correctly. Just putting in 'tenet' and 'tenant' isn't going to find errors, you have to give the context for the first one (which could be a lot) to force the meaning for the error.

You requested 'spoken'. That's quite a tall order. That's going to be much tougher to do than written. It's pretty tough for -any- frequency question if spoken because there's not database of all spoken utterances by everybody.

All this is to say that I don't expect there to be an easy reference for this and that you might need to create it yourself.

3
  • Thanks, I do appreciate your answer and I understand how difficult it is to catalogue the frequency of spoken language. A corpus of spoken English cross-referenced with a list of malapropisms and eggcorns might work, although I'm entirely sure how to go about doing that.
    – kandyman
    Aug 14 at 14:14
  • By the way, by 'spoken' I don't really mean all utterances by everyone - I mean a corpus of spoken English, i.e. a transcribed concordance of a corpus of spoken texts then arranged by frequency.
    – kandyman
    Aug 14 at 14:16
  • 1
    There surely exist corpora of transcriptions of -some- speech. However the great majority of such curated collections are from purely written sources. I'm just giving hints as to how to search for anything. Start with the easy things...those things that exist already and are easy to find. Then refine with the features you want. Also google for 'corpus spoken english eggcorns' as a start. Make sure you update us here about what you find, possibly with your own answer.
    – Mitch
    Aug 14 at 15:37
1

Your examples are eggcorns.

See: 'For All Intensive Purposes': An Eggcorn

Here's an eggcorn forum and an eggcorn database.

For an easier research project, just search top 100 eggcorns.

2
  • You consider 'pundint' to be an eggcorn?
    – kandyman
    Aug 14 at 16:30
  • If you need pundint to be a word in a dictionary to qualify, then, perhaps no. But keep in mind that eggcorn didn't start out in a dictionary either. Aug 15 at 1:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .