Eggcorn makes it into Merriam-Webster

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And NPR commemorates the event: Mark Memmott, “‘Eggcorns’: The Gaffes That Spread Like Wildflowers“, Weekend Edition 5/30/2015.

Here’s the LLOG post where the term was first suggested: “Egg corns: Folk Etymology, Malapropism, Mondegreen, ???“, 9/23/2003.  There are quite a few eggcorn-related posts in LLOG Classic and New LLOG as well. And anyone interested in the topic should check out Chris Waigl’s Eggcorn Database.

See also Katy Steinmetz,  “This Is What ‘Eggcorns’ Are (and Why They’re Jar-Droppingly Good)“, Time Magazine 5/30/2015.

[Note, by the way, that eggcorn made the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2010, and the American Heritage Dictionary in 2011.]

 



12 Comments

  1. Mara K said,

    May 30, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

    To celebrate, here’s an eggcorn from one of my students: the thing in your throat that vibrates when you speak is a vocal phone.

  2. Jeff Carney said,

    May 30, 2015 @ 5:08 pm

    Writing about gay marriage, a student recently pointed out that he was not a “homophone.” My first thought was, Hah! A meta-eggcorn! More likely, it was a typo.

  3. Andrew Garrett said,

    May 30, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

    I’ve never understood the eggcorn : folk etymology distinction. Mark originally wrote that an eggcorn isn’t “a folk etymology, because this [an eggcorn] is the usage of one person rather than an entire speech community.” But in classifying types of language change, we don’t usually use different terms according to whether they are individual or have spread from the individual to an entire (or even part of a) speech community. For example, if a single isolated adult speaker says bringed, we would call that “leveling” even if nobody ever imitates them; and we would still call it “leveling” if it winds up as the prevailing form. Likewise individuals use metaphors, just as whole communities do; and to refer to sporadic speech errors we use the same terms we do for long-completed sound changes — metathesis, palatalization, etc. If an eggcorn becomes a folk etymology when it spreads across the speech community, I’ve wondered why we should have two terms.

  4. Aaron Toivo said,

    May 30, 2015 @ 7:36 pm

    Andrew Garrett: I don’t disagree, necessarily, but a) there’s nothing wrong with having synonyms, and b) “eggcorn” is the better term of the two. It is short, evocative, and increasingly recognized by the general public. Whereas “folk etymology” is none of those things. Besides which, it more immediately suggests its other definition: urban-legend etymologies like “fornication under consent of king”.

    Anyway, another celebration eggcorn: “right away” for “right of way”. It’s one of my favorites, because my father had it. I had never realized what he thought he was saying until an instance when he was cussing about another driver – and complained, in all seriousness, that they had the “right away” and weren’t going right away.

  5. Eric P Smith said,

    May 30, 2015 @ 10:07 pm

    I’m curious about “jar-dropping”. Is there any variety of English in which “jar” and “jaw” are confusable?

  6. D-AW said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 6:06 am

    When did it become common for linguists describing a class of words to use a particular(ly good) example to refer to the class as a whole? (e.g. “eggcorn,” “cutthroat compound” quite recently, “portmanteau” more distantly and perhaps less convincingly).
    And what could we call such self-and-class-defining words? I’ve heard “tautonym” and “autonym,” but those aren’t very good because they already mean other things that are quite different. Wikipedia has “autological” and “homological,” but these seem to capture a broader category of self-descriptiveness. Unfortunately the naming process such a word would describe is (uniquely?) unavailable–they can’t very well be called eggcorns, cutthroats, etc.!

    [(myl) The earliest example that I know of is Pāṇini’s terminology for Sanskrit compounds (c. 600 BCE), which includes things like bahuvrihi that are examples of their class (bahuvrihi = “(who has) much rice” = “rich man”). But there are plenty of modern examples as well, e.g. “cranberry morphemes”. ]

  7. Matt McIrvin said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:28 am

    A good one I found recently is “geo special” for “geospatial”, as in “geo special data”. It increasingly comes up as smartphones offer location tracking and location-based services.

    Also, my first sighting of an eggcorn from space: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, in her very first Google+ post from the International Space Station, using “field of you” for “field of view”. (“You” for “view”, mostly in “point of you”, is already in the Eggcorn Database and turns out to be a much more common one than I realized, though Google searches return it more often as an intentional pun in trademarks and such than as an eggcorn.)

  8. Matt McIrvin said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:34 am

    Eric: I suspect “jar-dropping” and “jaw-dropping” would sound quite similar, if not identical, in many Massachusetts dialects.

  9. Matt McIrvin said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:39 am

    A folk etymology is a different thing: the proponent isn’t confused about what the phrase actually is, but is just proposing an incorrect theory about its origin.

    Substituting “jar-dropping” for “jaw-dropping” is an eggcorn; claiming, spuriously, that the phrase “jaw-dropping” originated historically as “jar-dropping” and was accidentally changed later is a folk etymology.

  10. Matt McIrvin said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:44 am

    …eh, I guess I’m wrong about folk etymology, having looked it up: as a term of art in linguistics, it seems to represent something more like an eggcorn that won.

    [(myl) Yes, I think that “an eggcorn that won” is a perfect definition for “folk etymology”.]

  11. Ray said,

    May 31, 2015 @ 7:51 am

    are eggcorns only based on sound? or can they also include words that people think are other words because they’ve misread them? for example, I recently heard a pundit on teevee straight-facedly call something a “fiat accompli” (which I thought was brilliant, even as I flinched). what are those kinds of substitutions called?

  12. Graeme said,

    June 2, 2015 @ 4:28 am

    For all intensive purposes, the eggcorn Professor Pullum planted is now a protected species.

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