Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An idiosyncratic but semantically motivated 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.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

The subject of eggcorns was first introduced on the Internet on September 23, 2003 by Mark Liberman on the website Language Log.

Examples

Comments

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  • In September 2003, Mark Liberman reported an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation: someone had written “egg corn” instead of “acorn”. It turned out that there was no established label for this type of non-standard reshaping. Erroneous as it may be, the substitution involved more than just ignorance: an acorn is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains of corn. So if you don’t know how acorn is spelled, egg corn actually makes sense.

    Mark Liberman’s colleague Geoffrey Pullum chimed in and suggested that this type of linguistic error should be called an eggcorn. Then Arnold Zwicky, wrote an enlightening article (Lady Mondegreen says her peace about egg corns) in which he gave his blessing to the term eggcorn and explained that new labels for spontaneous reshapings of known expressions are sorely needed, and listed the aspects under which eggcorns overlap with but yet differ from known classes of lexical creativity: malapropisms, mondegreens, folk etymologies etc. Mark Liberman subsequently gave some more thought to eggcorn terminology.

    The criteria of how to identify eggcorns have also been clarified. Not every homophone substitution is an eggcorn. The crucial element is that the new form makes sense: for anyone except lexicographers or other people trained in etymology, more sense than the original form in many cases. The more brazen among the eggcorn users may eloquently defend and explain the underlying semantics (metaphors, metonymies, convincing but erroneous accounts of the supposed history). Thus, thumbs down for definately and they’re / there house (not eggcorns, just phonetic misspellings: the non-standard versions don’t make any more sense than, or reinterpret the meaning of the standard versions), but thumbs up for for all intensive purposes.

    Basically, an eggcorn is a non-standard spelling/understanding of an existing phrase, which is technically or historically incorrect, but which makes sense on some level to the uninformed.

    August 23, 2009

  • A word invented based on mishearing an existing word and making up a fake etymology on the fly. E.g. a child hears that a tree grows from an "acorn" and mistakenly takes the word to "eggcorn" on the logic that it produces the tree like an egg produces a bird.

    July 12, 2009

  • Linguist Geoffrey Pullum says, "It would be so easy to dismiss eggcorns as signs of illiteracy and stupidity, but they are nothing of the sort. They are imaginative attempts at relating something heard to lexical material already known."

    July 3, 2009

  • See sionnach's eggcorn list

    December 4, 2008

  • In September 2003, Mark Liberman reported (Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???) an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation: someone had written “egg corn�? instead of “acorn�?. It turned out that there was no established label for this type of non-standard reshaping. Erroneous as it may be, the substitution involved more than just ignorance: an acorn is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains of corn. So if you don’t know how acorn is spelled, egg corn actually makes sense.

    quote from the Eggcorn database

    December 4, 2008

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    noun

    Etymology: Middle English nekename additional name, alteration (resulting from misdivision of an ekename) of ekename, from eke eke, also + name name

    Date: 15th century

    1 : a usually descriptive name given instead of or in addition to the one belonging to a person, place, or thing

    2 : a familiar form of a proper name (as of a person or a city)

    February 4, 2008