Posted by: episystechpubs | March 26, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Eggcorns

The other day, my dear co-worker Javier reminded me of a fun topic to discuss: eggcorns. What is an eggcorn? Here is an explanation and examples for you from The Ants Are My Friends, by Martin Toseland. [Note: I have preserved the British spelling and punctuation in the quoted material.]

‘Eggcorn’ is the name for a particular kind of misheard word. It was coined by linguist Mark Lieberman who came across someone who had heard ‘eggcorn’ in the phrase ‘great oaks from little acorns grow’. Lieberman thought that ‘eggcorn’ was an excellent word and was just as suggestive, if not more so, than ‘acorn’. From that point on, more and more of these creations appeared and a pattern of sorts emerged. The misheard word (the one being replaced) was often archaic or only used in a phrase or expression; our natural tendency is to use what is familiar to us when faced with something that is unfamiliar or unrecognisable. So, we grasp for a word we know that sounds like one we don’t know, rather than hazard a guess as to what the original might have been. Hence, we get ‘chestfallen’ for ‘crestfallen’ and ‘damp squid’ for ‘damp squib’. (pp. 9-10)

Now, let’s get to some examples! The eggcorns are bolded in the quotes; the correct word follows in parentheses.

· When asked how he could shoot baskets so well, Cozell McQueen responded, “It could be because I’m amphibious.” (ambidextrous)

· “That’s why I developed the appendix on the historical shortcomings of the thesis in Mystery of Romans. Let me share with you antidotal evidence for the need to provide the appendix.” (anecdotal)

· “The cookbook is being compiled. Please submit your favourite recipe and a short antidote concerning it.” (anecdote)

· From the Aussie Pythons and Snakes herpetology chat room: “If he was in the US, no one would even batter an eyelid at what he says because they are all like that over there.” (bat an eyelid)

· When asked what the future held for him, Mike Tyson responded, “I guess I’m going to fade into Bolivian.” (oblivion)

· Wes Westrum, a US baseball player and manager, describes a game as “a real cliff-dweller.” (cliff-hanger)

Kara Church

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