Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It is the cost. It is the cost.

It's unfortunate that some women are given the brunt of the blame for the failings of a man. Desdemona certainly was not the cause. Lady MacBeth might have been. So what about Jessica Simpson? Her on screen appearances during the Dallas/Philadelphia game have elicited a lot of vitriol. Some people are arguing that Tony Romo was distracted and that's why he played so badly.

I love Bettyboo's comment on this OMG!/Yahoo! piece: "From the start I knew that Jessica (the air head) was going to cause the Cowboys the game."

That looks like an eggcorn in there. To cause the game is an obvious mishearing of to cost the game. Is there a reasonable semantic reanalysis? Well first let's see if there's enough of this going on. First I'm going to go with 'caused us the game' in my initial search.

[...sound of tapping on computer keyboard...]

Wow. Yeah it's out there. A Google™ search for "Caused us the game" brings up 6720 hits. And the first five are all what I was hoping to find.

"Any fool can see that is what caused us the game" source

"h3po4 did an really nice \kill on map16, almost caused us the game" source

"Ultimately, this is what caused us the game." source

"but we were unable to capitalize on their mistakes and it caused us the game." source

"'It was not the untimely timeout that caused us the game ' explained Cuban" source

Bettyboo uses a form that makes it look like she has heard 'cost the game' and interpreted it as 'caused the game' so she changes the verb according to a standard grammar when she chooses the phrase "going to cause" instead of 'caused the game' in her comment.

This morphology is out there too. A search for "cause them the game" gets 12,300 hits. How many of them relevant? Enough.

"which will cause them the game in the end." source

"one little mistake done by a teammate can cause them the game" source

"He threw two late interceptions which cause them the game." source
(this one doesn't follow the standard rules of verb tense. It could be an 'eary' spelling. You know--one of those errors that makes me type throw when I meant to type throat just because they sound so similar.)

"This decision may cause them the game which is unfortunate" source

One result looks like a gapped construction.
"however lack of focus could cause them the game and loose ground to Inter Milan." source

The coordination with that second phrase that doesn't have a subject makes me think the writer might have intended to say 'could cause them to lose the game and lose ground to Inter Milan.' In that case it would have nothing to do with the cost→caused eggcorn.

But it could still be a relevant example if the writer meant to produce something like 'lack of focus could cause them the game and to lose ground' -- which would be sweet. Zeugma and an eggcorn relying on each other.

That might be too much to ask.

The cost→caused construction has been mentioned and discussed already on The Eggcorn Database. I didn't mention it here but one the EcDb forum I noted that one necessary condition of an eggcorn (the semantic reanalysis) was unclear to me. What exactly would 'caused the game' mean? The last example above looks like a possible effect of a blend and that might be just what's going on in these examples. But it's not a clear failure. If a clear meaning and semantic motivation can be found for 'caused the X' this would work as an eggcorn.]



  1. I was thinking about sports-talk after reading your blog entry here and I thought of another sports saying: "Well, that's the game." This is something one might say towards the game's end, when a team scores so much that it makes the rest of the game irrelevant. With 4 minutes left, the score is too much for the other team to make a comeback, and the fan says "Yep, that's the game."

    So, if "the game," when used that way, refers to that specific situation, then "That's what caused us the game" would mean "That play is what caused the rest of the game to be irrelevant."

  2. Yeah--that'll get you there. But I doubt that anyone that said this was thinking of it that way. It's not a very motivated reanalysis.

    And it comes around to being blend or ellipsis anyway. That analysis looks like a motivated ellipses by blending 'cost the game' with some phrase like 'caused X to lose' or 'caused the game to end' or some other 'caused' phrase.


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