Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 2 2015 @ 7:35am

objectivist-tree

The Dish thread that keeps on giving:

As a tyke in the 1940s, I often heard grownups talking about a very bad foreign man named – unless my ears deceived me – Hair Hitler. I had seen newsreel footage of this fidgety fellow with his unruly mop flopping about, so it never occurred to me to question why he was called “Hair.” When I grew a bit older and saw him referred to in print as “Herr Hitler,” I was in no way made wiser. “Herr,” I assumed, was how the Germans spelled “hair.”

Another reader:

We live in Texas and my husband is a diehard University of Texas grad, both undergrad and law school. So when our son was about three, he came into the living room during a UT football game. My husband flashed him the hook-em horns sign and told him what it meant.  The kid started saying “honk em horns”. We laughed so hard and thought, well, it makes sense.

Another notes regarding our previous batch:

“Undertoad” is an eggcorn from John Irving’s The World According to Garp. I wonder if your reader traded it for their own memory or if they came to it on their own?

Full passage from Garp at the bottom of the post. Several more eggcorns from readers are below:

Though the eggcorn itself might not be suitable for Sunday Dish, I think the rest of the video is, since Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries in LA talks about how we belong to each other, how we need to be tender with one another, how important community is. (I can’t tell you how much I value the Dish community and the work you all do!) The eggcorn is at 20:45. Fr. Greg is relating a story about one of his staff, a former gang member named Louis, who now frequently gives presentations about the work of Homeboy. Fr. Greg:

He was giving me tips on how to give a speech. He said, ‘You have to pepper your talk with self-defecating humor.’ I said, ‘Yeah, No shit.’

Heh. Another reader:

Not sure if this qualifies, but here’s my submission from only a couple of weeks ago. During a typical weekend winter squall, my in-laws had to cancel their visit out of concerns for safety on the roads. A few days later I mentioned to my nephew that I was sorry he wasn’t able to visit the previous weekend. His reply was that his father was afraid to go out because there was “a lot of black guys on the road.”

After puzzling over that for a few minutes, I asked him to repeat that in front of his father. Turns out my nephew overheard his father say there was “black ice” on the road. I only hope my nephew didn’t repeat that at school!

Another:

After my father’s funeral, my uncle told me that he had enjoyed the sermon, because the priest wasn’t “holier than now.”

Another:

When I was in grade school, Jewish friends would sometimes bring in gefilte (pronounced ga-fill-tah) fish during Passover.  We had a fish tank at home, which I knew had a filter we changed from time to time.  I thought they were saying “filter fish” and naturally assumed they were eating their tropical fish on matzo bread.

Lastly, here’s that passage from The World According to Garp:

Duncan began talking about Walt and the undertow – a famous family story. For as far back UnderToad1as Duncan could remember, the Garps had gone every summer to Dog’s Head Harbor, New Hampshire, where the miles of beach in front of Jenny Fields’ estate were ravaged by a fearful undertow. When Walt was old enough to venture near the water, Duncan said to him – as Helen and Garp had, for years, said to Duncan – ‘Watch out for the undertow.’ Walt retreated, respectfully. And for three summers Walt was warned about the undertow. Duncan recalled all the phrases.

‘The undertow is bad today.’

‘The undertow is strong today.’

‘The undertow is wicked today.’ Wicked was a big word in New Hampshire – not just for the undertow.

And for years Walt reached out for it. From the first, when he asked what it could do to you, he had only been told that it could pull you out to sea. It could suck you under and drown you and drag you away.

It was Walt’s fourth summer at Dog’s Head Harbor, Duncan remembered, when Garp and Helen and Duncan observed Walt watching the sea. He stood ankle-deep in the foam from the surf and peered into the waves, without taking a step, for the longest time. The family went down to the water’s edge to have a word with him.

‘What are you doing, Walt?’ Helen asked.

‘What are you looking for, dummy?’ Duncan asked him.

‘I’m trying to see the Under Toad,’ Walt said.

‘The what?’ said Garp.

‘The Under Toad,’ Walt said. ‘I’m trying to see it. How big is it?

ToaddetailAnd Garp and Helen and Duncan held their breath; they realized that all these years Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad.

Garp tried to imagine it with him. Would it ever surface? Did it ever float? Or was it always down under, slimy and bloated and ever-watchful for ankles its coated tongue could snare? The vile Under Toad.

Between Helen and Garp, the Under Toad became their code phrase for anxiety. Long after the monster was clarified for Walt (‘Undertow, dummy, not Under Toad!’ Duncan had howled), Garp and Helen evoked the beast as a way of referring to their own sense of danger. When the traffic was heavy, when the road was icy – when depression had moved in overnight – they said to each other, ‘The Under Toad is strong today.’

‘Remember,’ Duncan asked on the plane, ‘how Walt asked if it was green or brown?’

Both Garp and Duncan laughed. But it was neither green nor brown, Garp thought. It was me. It was Helen. It was the color of bad weather. It was the size of an automobile.

Update from a reader:

Damn you, Andrew and Dish crew. You say you’re leaving, and then you copy Garp and I realize it’s been 15 years since I read that and I need to pull it out and read it again.

(Illustrations via Doug Salati)