Notes from a Linguistic Mystic

This morning, a young woman was hit while crossing the street by a hit-and-run driver. It’s a pretty terrible story, and as such, the local news networks have been covering it extensively all day.

There was one linguistically interesting occurrence related to this unfortunate bit of news: As one of the reporters from 9news.com live-tweeted the press conference, she made a very interesting error in one particular tweet:

Screenshot of the Tweet

East HS student was walking in the crosswalk w/the right away when she was hit. Student has head injury, again in critical condition. #9NEWS

This is a textbook “eggcorn”, where an obscure, unusual, or otherwise opaque word or phrase is replaced with a similar sounding, more common one. I’ve discussed these before, but this particular one, substituting “right away” for “right-of-way” was particularly delicious.

After a reader pointed out the issue, to her credit, the reporter issued a followup tweet, thanking the reader and saying that she “was paying too much attention to the news conference”. Nonetheless, it was a linguistically fascinating error, and a beautiful example of the fact that eggcorns can still occur in some situations even when a person is familiar with the actual phrase or word.

Fast-scene-eight-ing, no? (OK, that was pushing it)


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