Monday, May 30, 2005

"Load of Crock"

I was talking with someone earlier today and I found myself using the expression "What a load of crock," a phrase I remember a friend saying over twenty years ago. It always struck me as a funny malapropism, blending as it does the "legitimate" expressions "load of bull" and "crock of shit," but leaving us in the process with two units of measure and no actual, um, "substance." I've always had a weakness for this sort of absurdist copulative structure, which incidentally comes up a lot in alternative pop, for example in They Might Be Giants' "Boat of Car" and The Books' "Lemon of Pink" (in these phrases, however, as is most frequently the case, it is the substantive end of the genitive formula that gets privileged, rather than the quantitative term).

So when it came up again today, I Googled "load of crock" out of curiosity. There were 904 entries!

What's remarkable about this number is that it's large enough to indicate that the phrase is widespread enough to be considered an actual idiom, but only just barely so. This suggests to me 1) that it is still an emergent usage after twenty-plus years, only gradually gaining any kind of foothold in the public vocabulary, but digging in there tenaciously; 2) that it is a once more widespread expression now in its last waning residual phases; or 3) that it's just the kind of random crap that a few hundred people will accidentally come up with on their own at any given time.

Hey, if you want real, informed, rigorous linguistic commentary, go to Geoffrey Nunberg or Language Log or something.

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