English as a Second Language/mistaken corrections

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Question
Hi Brian,

Collins dictionary defines HYPERCORRECTION as "a mistaken correction to text or speech made through a desire to avoid nonstandard pronunciation or grammar".

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hypercorrection?s=t

Let me give you some examples of what I think are cases hypercorrection:

1. A friend of mine obtained her master's degree abroad. When she related it to some friends, they corrected her saying that masteral degree is the correct term. But the term masteral does not exist.

2. A commentator criticized the term "office mate" because he believes that Americans and Britons only say colleague or coworker. But it turns out that native speakers also use "office mate" although it is not in the dictionary.

3. One teacher (whose native language is not English) has criticized the term "scratch paper" because she believes that the correct term is "scrap paper". When you look it up in the dictionary, "scrap paper" is British English and "scratch paper" is American English. So both are correct depending on the English dialect.

4. A woman president is elected in a country, and her husband is called the "First Gentleman". But some commentators criticize the term because they believe that it was just an invented term by the locals. Moreover, they believe that if a female president were elected in the US, Americans would simply refer to the spouse as "the husband of the president". However, the term "First Gentleman" has been used whenever a female governor is elected.  

However, I'm not really sure if all of these can be considered as hypercorrection. I agree that all of these are "mistaken corrections" based on the definition which also adds "... to avoid nonstandard pronunciation OR grammar". These corrections have nothing to do with grammar, but only with vocabulary or terms.

I believe that hypercorrection is when you make an unnecessary correction, and you either give an incorrect or another acceptable alternative (sometimes there are more than one correct terms or pronunciations).

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.

John

Answer
Hi John!

Thanks for the fantastic question, and sorry to keep you waiting so long.

To be honest, I'd never heard the term "hypercorrection" before, but after looking into it a bit myself, I recognized it instantly!  It's definitely a useful term, so thank you for the introduction!

In any case, I'm afraid although they may seem so, none of those examples are examples of hypercorrection, per se, but rather simply incorrect correction.  Hypercorrection has to do with modifying sentence construction so that either it makes grammatical sense, or sounds correction (pronunciation).

A very common English example of hypercorrection is responding to "This isn't good for you or me" by saying "You mean 'This isn't good for you or I'".  Many English speakers use "me" as a subject, which is in fact grammatically incorrect, but "me" as an object IS correct, so "correcting" it and changing it to "I" is, in fact, grammatically incorrect, even though it may sound correct.

Does that make sense?  I hope so.  If not, feel free to send me a follow up!

English as a Second Language

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Brian Connelly

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I can answer pretty much any question a student might have about English; about grammar, vocabulary, meanings of words, phrases, expressions or idioms, pronunciation, etc. I can answer questions about how to learn or study English better, how to improve certain aspects of communication (listening, writing, speaking, etc), about why we have certain rules.

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I've been teaching English in Japan, mainly as a private (one-to-one) teacher, but also at companies such as Universal Studios or international airports. I have taught professional interpreters and translators and I have also taught students who dropped out of high school and never learned any English. Several years ago I acquired the CELTA and I have been running my own classroom for the past year.

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None in particular, but I work with a number of companies who regularly introduce me to new students and occasionally to other companies that are looking for English teachers.

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The CELTA.

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I currently have approximately 40 individual students with whom I work one on one. I have also worked with local manufacturing companies, colleges, local retailers, as well as Sharp, Universal Studios, Itami International Airport, Kobe International Airport

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