Posted by: Jack Henry | June 8, 2012

Editor’s Corner: Eggcorns

It’s Friday, so let’s have some fun. A faithful reader and fellow language lover, Samuel Dean, sent this topic to me several weeks ago. First, a brief definition and history of eggcorns, from

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. 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…"

…the term eggcorn was coined by 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.

Here are a few examples of eggcorns, from the Eggcorn Database (

fetal » feeble

Chiefly in: (curled up) in the feeble position

Spotted in the wild:

I was impressed. He was looking quite happy for someone who spent the last night sleeping in the feeble position. (, July 26, 2009)

dog-eat-dog » doggy-dog

Chiefly in: doggy-dog world

Spotted in the wild:

the [sic] true matter is: it’s a doggy dog world out there and they’re all in it for the money.

cruller » crawler

Chiefly in: French crawler

Spotted in the wild:

A local doughnut shop had a sign advertising “French crawlers”. [sic] (Wilson in ADS-L)

ghost » goat

Chiefly in: give up the goat

Spotted in the wild:

§ Luckily our old Toyota just got us through and then gave up the goat. (ABC Rural, SA Country Hour, Jan. 11, 2006)

§ Stay calm, collected, and don’t give up the goat. (Paul Davidson, Ten Rules for Making Rules, Apr. 16, 2006)

Have a great weekend, and welcome to all of you new readers!

Kara Church | Senior Technical Editor

Symitar, A Jack Henry Company

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123


  1. My favorite “eggcorn” is when people substitute “granite” for “granted” as in, “I took it for granite you would finish the project on time.”

  2. We got into a big discussion in the office a while back re: wheel barrel vs. wheel barrow. Does that look like a barrel to you?

  3. […] · […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: