eavesdrop or easedrop

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eavesdrop or easedrop

Post by hsargent » Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:54 pm

I swear I hear both terms but the Archives only mention Eavesdrop which is what I learned.

Is this another of those "mis-hearings" which I have been guilty of in my life?
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eavesdrop or easedrop

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:59 pm

best ask your wife
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Post by Bobinwales » Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:19 pm

It really did come from listeners being hit by water dropping from the eaves, honest.

At this point, Ken usually arrives and proves me horribly wrong!
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Post by Shelley » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:22 pm

If I were a movie director, I would make sure my shot of a surreptitious person listening outside a window or doorway under the eaves was on a rainy day, and included a visible drop (just one or two -- I would be a very subtle movie director) splashing on the person's (red) jacket, staining it a darker hue . . .
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:30 pm

A little late for directing a scene of someone dropping no eaves, don't you think?
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Mar 30, 2006 12:09 am

.. *smile* .. harry for a long time I used the term earsdrop due to me associating the action with listening, hence with ears, hence pronounced earsdrop .. now in consulting the Oracle of Google we find .. eavesdrop - 1 790 000 .. easedrop - 1 330 .. and a sad last earsdrop - 153 .. now I'm never really sure what that proves but there you go ..

WoZ of Aus 30/03/06
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eavesdrop or easedrop

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:57 am

Harry, Join the club. And Bob you got it about right! For many years I thought it was EASEDROP because that’s what I thought I heard, at least in New York City where I grew up. And I think it was and still is EASEDROP for some folks. But you wont find no EASEDROP in no dictionary because it ain’t there and the correct word is EAVESDROP. A Google search produced ~1,770,000 ‘eavesdrops’ versus ~1,400 ‘easedrops.'

This is a classic case, of what is known as a ‘mondegreen’ – word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard. [1954; coined by American author S. Wright from the line ‘laid him on the green,’ interpreted as ‘Lady Mondegreen,’ in a Scottish ballad]. One of my personal favorites is “Our Father, who art in heaven, HAROLD be thy name.”

All the word mavens worth their salt have had something to say on this one and I refer you to Michael Quinion’s discussion on eavesdropper (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-eav1.htm) in World Wide Words and Evan Morris’ discussion of eavesdrop (http://www.word-detective.com/back-k2.html#eavesdrop) in Word Detective.
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EAVESDROPPER [noun 1487, verb 1606, backformation from noun]: One who clandestinely listens in on private conversations; a fly on the wall, a snoop, a spy.
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And here is one more good discussion with some additional tidbits from the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins:

EAVESDROPPER: The eaves of a house is simply the edge of the roof that overhangs the side. (Eaves is both singular and plural, there being no word eave.) In ancient times, English law forbade the building of a house less than two feet from another person’s property, because rainwater dropping off the eaves might injure a neighbor’s land. So the space beneath the eaves of a house and about two feet out came to be called the eavesdrip or eavesdrop. Later, in the 15th century, persons standing in this space near a window trying to overhear conversations inside a house were called eavesdroppers, and it was from their name that the verb to eavesdrop was formed. One 16th-century English writer warned of ‘eavesdroppers with pen and ink outside the walls,’ and the great jurist Sir William Blackstone called ‘eavesdroppers’ a ‘common nuisance.’
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And the following is what Freemasons of yore had to say on the subject:

“EAVESDROPPER: A listener. The punishment which was directed in the old lectures, at the revival of Freemasonry in 1717, to be inflicted on a detected cowan [[applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a mason, but has not been regularly apprenticed or bred to the trade]] was: "To be placed under the eaves of the house in rainy weather, till the water runs in at his shoulders and out at his heels."— ‘Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences’ (1946 edition) by Albert C. Mackey
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<1584 “There must be some EVES-DROPERS with pen and inke behind the wall.”—‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft’ by R. Scot, vii. page 24>

<1606 “We will be bold to EVESDROPPE.”—‘Sir G. Goosecappe,’ in O. Pl. (1884) by Bullen, III. page 82>

<1619 “Against such as by night shall EVES~DROP houses.”—‘Country Justice’ (1630) by Dalton, page 189>

<1641 EVESDROPPERS are such as stand under wals or windowes . . . to heare news.”—Termes de la Ley,’ page 153>

<1748 “Like a thief, or EVES-DROPPER, he is forced to dodge about in hopes of a letter.”—‘Clarissa’ (1811), II. xii. page 72>

<1820 “Art thou already EAVES-DROPPING?”—‘The Abbot’ by Walter Scott, xxi>

<1851 “The expertest EAVES-DROPPERS, who had listened at the door, brought away no information.”—‘Rambling by Railways’ (1852) by W. W. Collins. xv. page 290>

<1860 “We must not peep and EAVES~DROP at palace-doors.”—‘The Conduct of Life’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Works (Bohn), II. page 386>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang)
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Ken G – March 29, 2006
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:43 am

It's always fascinating when Ken comes the old Lady Mondegreen.
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Post by Shelley » Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:03 pm

Edwin Ashworth wrote: A little late for directing a scene of someone dropping no eaves, don't you think?
I'm sure I'd agree, Edwin Ashworth, but your jest is over my head, I'm sorry to say. (I didn't want you to think I was ignoring you!)
Ken Greenwald, thanks again for a great talk on eavesdropping, and for enlightening me on the singular/plural "eaves".
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Post by jackster » Fri Mar 31, 2006 4:52 am

Ken:
If there's no such word as "eave", then when you mention the rain collectors which commonly hang from a house's eaves "eavestroughs", would you call just one an eavestrough and not an eavetrough?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Mar 31, 2006 5:17 am

Jack,

Your posting sent me straight to the reference shelf, as I had never previously encountered this term. I failed to find it in any British dictionary I looked in, but my Merriam-Webster New Universal Unabridged Dictionary contains the following entry:

eave trough, Northern U.S., gutter. Also, eaves trough, eavestrough.

From this it appears that there are three variants of the term which are all in current use.

Similarly, there I also found the following term that was new to me:

eave spout, Chiefly New England, waterspout. Also, eaves spout. [1885-90, Amer.].

In Britain, this object would normally be called a rainspout.
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eavesdrop or easedrop

Post by jackster » Fri Mar 31, 2006 3:10 pm

Erik:
Thanks for sleuthing that out for us. In the U.S., the word for "eavespout" is "downspout". Pretty inconsistent, huh?

Jack
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Post by Shelley » Fri Mar 31, 2006 4:53 pm

The itsy, bitsy spider . . .
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Mar 31, 2006 6:06 pm

upspout?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Mar 31, 2006 10:56 pm

Jack,

I had forgotten about 'downspout'. I'd say that it, not 'rainspout', is also the most commonly-used term in the UK.
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