Writing | Eggcorns Gone Wild

© 2012 Crossbridge
What is an eggcorn?

It’s a relatively new term that describes the substitution of one word or phrase for another one that sounds the same or similar.

Eggcorns occur most commonly in spoken language, but they also appear in writing. Here’s an example:

For all intensive purposes, this project is nearly complete.

Of course, the correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes.”

The term “eggcorn” was coined in 2003 by professors Geoffrey Pullum and Mark Liberman to describe this particular type of substitution after encountering a woman who said “egg corn” instead of “acorn.”
Eggcorns are not the same as malapropisms, which occur when an incorrect word creates a nonsensical phrase. Eggcorns are often creative and funny, but they differ from puns because the user is unaware of the mistake and the humor is unintended.
The phenomenon and term caught on with linguists and language lovers, who have submitted some 600 examples to an Eggcorn Database. Some of these include:

All total (all told)
Ex-patriot (expatriate)
From the gecko (from the get-go)
Gamefully employed (gainfully employed)
Gas turban (gas turbine)
Hone in (home in)
Mating name (maiden name)
Mute point (moot point)
New leash on life (new lease on life)
Old-timers’ disease (Alzheimer’s disease)
Preying mantis (praying mantis)

Between the volume of contemporary communications and the popularity of autocorrect typing functions, eggcorns have gone wild.

Pay attention and you’ll begin to spot them everywhere. When you do, add them to the comments and we'll do an update. 


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Anonymous said...

Thanks, very entertaining. I will never again take for granite the power of using the correct word.

Barbara Spencer Hawk said...

Very clever, thanks for the chuckle.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this one:

Every tenant applies to all states ...

(Every tenet applies ...)

Barbara Spencer Hawk said...

Thanks, Anonymous, that's a good one. Another to add to the list.

Anonymous said...

I often hear people say "hone in." It seems pretty common, particularly in manufacturing environments.

Barbara Spencer Hawk said...

Great observation. I often hear "hone in" also and have on occasion used that phrase myself.

Anonymous said...

You're right, once you start paying attention, eggcorns are everywhere. Today I say this one:

"... tow the line" (toe the line)

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