Eggcorns

I have just discovered the wonderful world of eggcorns. There is a database devoted to these linguistic exotica. I’ve put a link to it in the sidebar. An eggcorn is a malapropism of a particular sort. It is both phonetically and semantically motivated. The name comes from the use of eggcorn as a mistake for acorn. Not only does it sound like the correct word, the seed part of an acorn does indeed look a bit eggy. It is not actually very easy to decide whether a particular mistake is really an eggcorn. Here are a couple I have come across:

  1. tendril for tendon
  2. floriblunder for floribunda

Borussia Rose
Borussia Rose, a modern floribunda
GNU Free Documentation License: Kurt Stueber

The first of these, I would argue, is a genuine eggcorn. The two words do sound alike and they describe things of similar shape. This one was overheard in a pub.

The second I’m not so sure of. It was told to me by a friend and perpetrated by a relative of his who was complaining that the roses in question were shedding petals all over the place and making a mess of her tidy lawn. So maybe the flowers were a mistake. This one doesn’t work in all accents of English, of course.

14 thoughts on “Eggcorns

  1. “the seed part of an acorn does indeed look a bit eggy”

    Distinctly egg-shaped, I’d say, complete with eggcup. And, being a seed, it is indeed a corn, which is why it was called an oak corn in the first place!

    Can you think of any other so convincingly egg-and-cup-shaped corns? Is eggcorn a malapropism in anything but an etymological sense? Or a malapropism at all in a folk-etymological sense?

    Come to think of it I think “floriblunder” would be a far less invidious bit of eponymy!

  2. Michael,

    I think we’re stuck with eggcorn, which has been used as the eponym for some years now. See Language Log for details.

    I agree with you about its dubious malapropic status, but that, as I understand it, is the charm of true eggcorns.

  3. Yes I did know that “eggcorn” was well established, and have been a fan of the term as well as the phenomenon practically from the time it was given form and substance by Mark LIberman on Language Log, which I now see from the wonderful Wiktionary was on September 23, 2003. That was admittedly a bit longer ago than I realized, and I should have thought long enough ago to have found its way into more than Wiktionary, Wikipedia, and UsingEnglish’s Glossary of English Grammar Terms, which shockingly are the only ones with entries for it, according to Onelook.

    And I find that shocking precisely because I’m surprised that we’re not more stuck with it than would appear to be the case. Your blog entry prompted me to make the facetious observation that it may not be quite so felicitous as I had thought, but I wasn’t seriously suggesting that one should try to unstick anything in language. But thanks a million for floriblunder. In an ideal world it would have been ideal!

  4. As registration for the Eggcorn database is currently closed, I thought this would be the best place to report a “finding in the wild”, taken from a forum devoted to fish- and pond-keeping. I have corrected two spelling errors and normalised case, but what remains is otherwise exactly as written :


    in relation to the dog food thread I also have 3 cats, one of which is in his twilight years and not to willing to ostrich size our non dog keepers I thought this topic should be spread out to our cat loving fish keepers for their input and suggestions

  5. And another, from the same source as the preceding :

    I hope there something founder mentally wrong with my setup as I got a bit carried away and put the fish into the pond this evening.

    .

  6. Philip,

    I thinks these must come from a direct descendant of Mrs Malaprop.

  7. They are all by different authors posting to the same forum. I can only think that keeping fish and acquiring one’s vocabulary must use the same region of the brain, which in a few individuals can lead to one facility being developed at the expense of the other …

  8. This is not an eggcorn as such, but close : Seamonkey’s spelling suggestion when I included the word “MaidstoneFreeRecycle” in an e-mail reply — “Buckminsterfullerene” !

  9. Just picked this one up from a Guardian reader (i.e., in the “Comments” section of the Guardian online :

    People on the receiving end of an accent they are not 100% au faith with who then complain …

    .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *