In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease". This is as opposed to a malapropism, where the substitution creates a nonsensical phrase. Classical malapropisms generally derive their comic effect from the fault of the user, while eggcorns are errors that exhibit creativity or logic. Eggcorns often involve replacing an unfamiliar, archaic, or obscure word with a more common or modern word ("baited breath" for "bated breath").
The term eggcorn was coined by a professor of linguistics, Geoffrey Pullum, in September 2003, in response to an article by Mark Liberman on the website Language Log, a blog for linguists. Liberman discussed the case of a woman who substitutes the phrase egg corn for the word acorn, arguing that the precise phenomenon lacked a name; Pullum suggested using "eggcorn" itself. The phenomenon is very similar to the form of wordplay known as the pun, except that, by definition, the speaker (or writer) intends the pun to have some humorous effect on the recipient, whereas one who speaks or writes an eggcorn is unaware of the mistake.
- ex-patriot instead of expatriate
- mating name instead of maiden name
- on the spurt of the moment instead of on the spur of the moment
- preying mantis instead of praying mantis
- "eggcorn n.". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (fifth ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011. ISBN 0-547-04101-2.
- Peters, Mark (Mar/April 2006). "Word Watch: The Eggcorn -- Lend Me Your Ear". Psychology Today 39 (2): p.18. Retrieved 2006-07-13.
- Staff (2006-08-26). "The word: Eggcorns". New Scientist. p. 52. Retrieved 2006-12-21. LexisNexis link
- Erard, Michael (June 20, 2006). "Analyzing Eggcorns and Snowclones, and Challenging Strunk and White". New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- "expatriate » expatriot". The Eggcorn Database. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
- Saner, Emine (2006-10-05). "Tiny eggcorns, mighty gaffes". London: The Guardian. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- "pray » prey". The Eggcorn Database. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
- Diamond, Graeme (September 2010). "September 2010 new words". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
- Freeman, Jan (2010-09-26). "So wrong it's right". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
- Liberman, Mark, and Geoffrey K. Pullum. (2006) Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log. Wilsonville, OR: William, James & Co.
- Liberman, Mark. (2003-09-23) "Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???" Language Log (weblog) Retrieved 2009-06-23.
- Peters, Mark. (2006-08-09) "Like a Bowl in a China Shop." The Chronicle of Higher Education: Chronicle Careers. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
- "How the Web Is Changing Language." Talk of the Nation (radio program), 2006-06-28.
- "Yours sins nearly." New Scientist 2570, 2006-09-23. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- Harbeck, James. (2010-06-02) "My Veil of Tears" Retrieved 2012-01-26.