English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
“A whole nother” way of looking at things

I recently learned that the word apron was once apparently napron, but the current form has resulted from accidental morphing of a napron to an apron. What is this kind of mistake called? (I'd also like to know of others, if there are any.)

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Marthaª, Matt E. Эллен, Will Hunting, simchona, FumbleFingers Jan 11 '12 at 17:10

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Really? What about JSB's excellent answer to the question you asked about this before? – Kit Z. Fox Jan 10 '12 at 17:30
@Kitḫ: You are making me feel senile... though I must say that the answers I got from this question are more pertinent to it than the answers to the other question. – Daniel Jan 12 '12 at 1:21
@Daniel: Don't feel so bad! As Martha points on the "nother" question, "a whole nother" is a bit daft anyway! It's more "mock-illiterate" than metanalysis. – FumbleFingers Jan 12 '12 at 1:29
up vote 11 down vote accepted

An apron comes from misdivision of a napron.

This incorrect division can work in other ways. Other examples include newt (an ewte), nickname (a nekename, from an ekename), naught (from an aught), nuncle (archaic; from division of mine uncle as my nuncle, and an uncle as a nuncle. Similarly for archaic naunt), the adder snake (a nædder).

Some also include orange, but the N was dropped before the word entered English, in French une orenge from une norenge.

Daffodil comes from the earlier affodell, a variant of asphodel. It's thought the D comes from the Dutch de affodil.

This also happens with names, such as Ned (my Ned from mine Ed) and Nellie (my Nellie from mine Ellie).

Wikipedia has many more examples in several languages and gives other names for the process:

Rebracketing (also known as juncture loss, junctural metanalysis, false splitting, false separation, faulty separation, misdivision, or refactorization) is a common process in historical linguistics where a word originally derived from one source is broken down or bracketed into a different set of factors. It is a form of folk etymology, where the new factors may appear meaningful (e.g., hamburger taken to mean a burger with ham), or may seem to be the result of valid morphological processes.

share|improve this answer

Etymonline.com calls it a faulty separation. Some others are adder, umpire, orange, newt, nickname, uncle (erroneously moving the letter "n" to the article "a=an", or noun "ewte=newt".

As @Brett points out, Danish linguist Otto Jespersen (1860-1943) coined the term metanalysis for this process. But there's still debate over whether, for example, deriving the verb to peddle from the noun pedlar is a form of metanalysis, or of back-formation.

share|improve this answer
A Fawlty separation? – Gnawme Jan 9 '12 at 2:16
@Gnawme: Nah - that's B Fawlty (Basil! :) – FumbleFingers Jan 9 '12 at 2:18
@FumbleFingers I love that show! Before my time, but a classic. – user11550 Jan 9 '12 at 6:43
@Mahnax You can stream episodes of Fawlty Towers on Amazon now. – Gnawme Jan 9 '12 at 8:38
I used to think there was a disease called "ahernia". – David Schwartz Jan 9 '12 at 11:20

I believe Jespersen called it metanalysis.

share|improve this answer
I believe you are in fact correct, but metanalysis may be a somewhat broader term even in the field of linguistics. Opinions differ, but I think I'd say deriving the verb to peddle from the noun peddlar is a form of metanalysis. – FumbleFingers Jan 10 '12 at 17:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.