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The subject of eggcorns was first introduced on the Internet on September 23, 2003 by Mark Liberman on the website Language Log.[1]

He discussed the case of a woman who always thought the word acorn was egg corn. Later on, the word egg corn or eggcorn was suggested by Geoffrey K. Pullum to name such linguistic peculiarities.

Chris Potts has told me about a case in which a woman wrote "egg corns" for "acorns." This might be taken to be a folk etymology, like "Jerusalem" for "girasole" in "Jerusalem artichoke" (a kind of sunflower). But it might also be treated as something like a mondegreen (also here and here), the kind of "slip of the ear" that is especially common in learning songs and poems. Finally, it's also something like a malapropism, where a word is mistakenly substituted for one of similar sound shape.

Although the example is somewhat like each of these three named categories of errors, it's not exactly any of them. Can anyone suggest a better term? [Liberman 2003]




eggcorn (plural eggcorns)

  1. (linguistics) 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.
    deep-seeded instead of deep-seated
    deformation of character instead of defamation of character
    for all intensive purposes instead of for all intents and purposes
    free reign instead of free rein
    oldtimer's disease instead of Alzheimer's disease


  • 2005, Ben Zimmer, "Eggcorn Database", at alt.usage.english, 2005
    The Language Loggers have argued that it's useful to distinguish eggcorns from classic malapropisms (e.g., "allegory" for "alligator", "oracular" for "vernacular", "fortuitous" for "fortunate"), in which a word is replaced by one with a vague similarity of sound. An eggcorn relies on a substitution that is phonologically very similar (even homophonous), and the result is one that is semantically justifiable (even if the justification is far-fetched).
  • 2005, Chris Waigl, "The Eggcornin' Bob Dylan", at alt.usage.english, November 5, 2005
    What is also required of eggcorns is phonetic closeness -- they should do better than "electrocution" for "elocution" or "allegory" for "alligator". This is something they have in common with mondegreens, but the similarity ends there. Mondegreens are errors of perception, not of production, and they are related to specific auditory material:
  • 2006, "Lend me your ear.(WORD WATCH; amusing speech errors known as eggcorns)", in Psychology Today, Mar 1, 2006
    Far from being simple goofs, an eggcorn provides a glimpse into everyday thought processes. Eggcorns do not signify ignorance but rather the opposite,
  • 2006, K Webb, "Lost? Misquoted? We want better communication!", in Incite, Volume 27 Issue 10 (Oct 2006)
    ... An eggcorn is a term that is misunderstood and mangled, like ‘give up the goat’ or ‘hone in on’.
  • 2006, "Feedback", New Scientist, 18 November 2006
    OUR report of a relative who, as a child, thought the classic version of the Lord's Prayer began "Our father, a chart in heaven, Harold be thy name" stated that this type of mistake is known as an eggcorn. A number of readers have suggested that instances like this in which a whole phrase rather than just a word is misheard, should be called mondegreens rather than eggcorns.
  • 2007, Michael Erard, Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, page 211
    But most eggcorns remain individual idiosyncrasies ...
    But something like "pus jewel" (for "pustule") — which is an eggcorn []
  • 2007, Martin Toseland, The Ants Are My Friends: Misheard Lyrics, Malapropisms, Eggcorns and Other Linguistic Gaffes
  • 2007, "WORDPLAY: Mighty mistakes from little eggcorns grow...", in Pharmacy News Jul 19, 2007
    Characteristic of the eggcorn is that the new phrase makes sense on some level ('old-timer's disease' for 'Alzheimer's disease').

See also


  • Notes:
  1. ^ Mark Liberman (2003-09-23). "Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???." Language Log. URL accessed on 2008-06-22.


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