Eggcorns: Playful Words
Published Tue Aug 30, 2016 | Updated Sat Feb 23, 2019 | Posted in On Writing | By Linda Jenkinson |
You've probably heard of a "play on words." Eggcorns are playful bits of language that put distinction in your characters and humor in your writing.
If you are looking for a way to add a fresh and funny face to your writing, try an eggcorn. The word looks like a cross between an Easter egg and a Halloween treat, but its only bond with any holiday is fun.
Eggcorns have likely been around since the first time someone's tongue tripped over a word. The word eggcorn was first coined in 2003. On his blog, Language Log, professor Mark Liberman raised the case of a woman who mistakenly replaced the word 'acorn' with 'eggcorn'. He wondered what name would fit the error. Liberman's colleague, professor Geoffrey Pullum, suggested that the mistaken word, eggcorn, might do the job.(1)
One of the fun things about the English language is that it is always changing. As it changes, it isn't afraid to laugh at itself. Over the years, the eggcorn grew in popularity. It was a frequent and fun guest in essays and conversations about our ever-changing language.
The eggcorn is the latest addition to a family of fun words,. It is kin to witticisms, puns, and colloquialisms, words that add distinction to a character and infuse writing with subtle humor.
In May of 2015, Merriam Webster added eggcorn to its dictionary and defined 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."(2)
Eggcorns are easily confused with oronyms. An oronym is, a phrase that sounds the same as another, but has an entirely different meaning, e.g. "Ice Cream" vs. "I scream".
Eggcorns generally begin with a slight nuance of mispronunciation. "For all intents and purposes" becomes "for all intensive purposes." "Spread like wildfire" becomes the gentler "spread like wild flowers". While the letter of the phrase or word changes, the spirit remains.
NPR.org (National Public Radio) has squirreled away 100 of these nuggets in a six page document that they say, "Pass mustard".(3) The document, itself is a tasty bit of technology. Treat yourself to an eggcorn and have a look!
- “Language Log: Egg Corns: Folk Etymology, Malapropism, Mondegreen,????” Accessed August 15, 2016. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000018.html.
- “Eggcorn - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed May 19, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggcorn.
- “‘Eggcorns’: The Gaffes That Spread Like Wildflowers : The Two-Way : NPR.” Accessed May 19, 2016. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/05/30/410504851/eggcorns-the-gaffes-that-spread-like-wildflowers.