from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
- noun A series of words that result from the misunderstanding of a word or phrase as some other word or phrase having a plausible explanation, as free reign for free rein, or to the manor born for to the manner born (from William Shakespeare's Hamlet).
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.
- noun linguistics An idiosyncratic but
semanticallymotivated substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound identical, or nearly so, at least in the dialect the speaker uses.
from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
One linguist notes that the essence of an eggcorn is that it takes a stale metaphor or trite cliche and breathes fresh life into it.
(NY Times article link on the Language Log) The key to an eggcorn is that it is a mis-hearing by a native speaker that has its own internal logic.
Following up on this snippet I discover that the word eggcorn was coined by the Language Log, a blog well known to me and some of you, to mean an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation.
Who is there to restrain this kudzulike growth of stupid neologisms like "eggcorn"?
In response to your query about a Russian equivalent for "eggcorn," I've always been impartial to "бутерврот," and have actually seen it in non-pun-related use.
If any of my Russian readers know of a Russian word or phrase that's sometimes replaced by a semantically clearer, though historically incorrect, version, like "eggcorn" for acorn or "poteau rose" for pot aux roses, please mention it in the comments.
What I find so attractive about poteau(x) rose(s) (lit. "pink pole") as an equivalent for "eggcorn" is not it is a common misspelling for pot aux roses (it isn't; the substitutions are overwhelmingly jocular, including in film and literature), but that it has undergone the double eggcornification process, just like æcern-acorn-eggcorn.
I came across a good eggcorn at work the other day.
Some subsequent debate on eggcorn terminology by the language log plaza team can be seen here.
Giggles aside, the point of eggcorn-collecting isn't to make fun but to shed light: on the ways people -- including you and I-- make meaning out of stuff we know and stuff we've heard.