WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 09, 2022
a word or phrase that is a seemingly logical alteration of another word or phrase that sounds similar and has been misheard or misinterpreted.
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WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF EGGCORN?
Eggcorn “a seemingly logical alteration of a misheard word or phrase” is a coinage by linguistics professor Geoffrey K. Pullum based on the word acorn. The logic here is that people unfamiliar with the term acorn (from Old English æcern) may mistake the word as a compound of egg and corn because of acorns’ size and shape. An eggcorn is a type of folk etymology based on an honest mistake, as we saw in the etymology for the recent Word of the Day armscye, which is often incorrectly believed to come from “arm’s eye,” after the location and shape of an armscye. What makes something an eggcorn is that, unlike folk etymology proper, which results in a change to a word or phrase based on a nearly universal misconception, eggcorns tend to reflect common mistakes at the individual level—no matter how widespread these mistakes may be—that do not change the spelling of the mistaken word or phrase. Also important is that eggcorns are based on logical misunderstandings, so not every gross misspelling on the average social media feed qualifies as an eggcorn. While eggcorn is attested as early as the early 19th century, its present sense dates from 2003.
HOW IS EGGCORN USED?
Whether step foot in is, or originally was, an eggcorn has been hotly but inconclusively debated. However, no one argues that set foot in is anything other than standard English. So step foot in is one of those phrases that we’re probably better off not using even though there’s little reason to object if others use them.
BARBARA WALLRAFF, “WORD COURT,” THE ATLANTIC, SEPTEMBER 2006
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote …. “the Congress we’re about to get will be its [predecessor’s] spit and image: familiar faces, timeworn histrionics, unending paralysis.” Spit and image? …. Did Bruni just drop an eggcorn in America’s journal of record? …. As Language Log points out, he didn’t drop (lay?) an eggcorn at all. In fact, “spit and image” is the older version of the expression. Both may be alterations of an earlier form, “spitten image.”
DAVID SHARIATMADARI, “THAT EGGCORN MOMENT,” THE GUARDIAN, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014
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