If you've been following language news lately, you might have seen that one of the latest additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary was the linguistic term "eggcorn". Merriam-Webster defines it as "a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase either on its own or as part of a set expression". While that is a perfectly reasonable definition of the word, it's much easier to understand the concept with a few examples.
One of the most popular examples of an eggcorn is the phrase "for all intensive purposes". If you think that looks correct, then you've been using an eggcorn! The correct phrase is "for all intents and purposes", but there are huge numbers of people that use "for all intensive purposes" who probably misinterpreted the phrase the first time they heard it used or have simply learned it from someone else who was using it incorrectly.
|On the hunt for a delicious "eggcorn".|
Another great example is the term "eggcorn" itself, which is an eggcorn for "acorn". In fact, the term got its name due to this post on the wonderful Language Log back in 2003.
Everyone has probably used an eggcorn at some point in their life, since it is quite easy to mishear something and then naturally fill in the blanks, albeit incorrectly. It can also be quite embarrassing when you find out that you've been using a term incorrectly for ages.
My worst eggcorn was back in high school, when I was expected to play the school's fight song at every football game since I was in the marching band. During a drum break in the song, we were all expected to chant "Fight team, fight team, fight! Win team, win team, win!" before resuming playing. All I can say in my defense is that the words were never written down anywhere for us to see (probably because they were obvious) and that they were said quite quickly, but I thought we were chanting "Fighty, fighty, fight! Winty, winty, win!". Suffice it to say that my friends were very amused when they found out I'd been saying this for ages.
In celebration of such crazy linguistic errors, here are some of our favorite eggcorns:
"bear-handed fight" should be "bare-handed fight"
"Cadillac converter" should be "catalytic converter"
"cut to the cheese" should be "cut to the chase"
"doggy dog world" should be "dog-eat-dog world"
"expresso" should be "espresso"
"holidays sauce" or "Holland days sauce" should be "hollandaise sauce"
"star craving mad" or "stark raven mad" should be "stark raving mad"
If you're fascinated by the seemingly endless array of eggcorns in the world, we recommend that you check out The Eggcorn Database, which has an impressive list of them and their usage "in the wild". We'd also love to hear from you in the comments if there are any embarrassing eggcorns that you've used in the past and later found out about, or have heard others use.