Eggcorns and nauseum: The hilarious effects of turns of phrase



Lip sing. Do diligence. For all intensive purposes.

At one point or another, most of us have misstated a phrase. We might have said ease drop when we should have said eavesdrop. Or said we said we were internally grateful, when we were actually eternally grateful. These turns of phrase are called eggcorns.

What is an eggcorn?
Eggcorns are similar to malapropisms, which is when a word gets replaced by a similar-sounding word to create a nonsensical phrase. However, with eggcorns, the resulting phrase is plausible (and often comedic). Think about old-timer’s disease, which is often mistakenly said instead of Alzheimer’s disease. This is an eggcorn because the disease largely affects people considered to be old; thus, old-timer’s disease makes sense.

How did eggcorn get its name?
Language Log, which happens to be one of my favorite language-related blogs, is responsible for bringing this term to the world. A Septemter 2003 blog entry discussed a person who mistook acorn for eggcorn, which opened a dilemma about what to call this type of error. In the end, they suggested it just be called eggcorn. 

Eggcorn examples
The Eggcorn Database has collected hundreds of examples to peruse. Below are some of my favorites. On the left is the eggcorn, and on the right is the corrected phrase. Enjoy!

and nauseam: ad nauseam
a posable thumb: opposable thumb
besiege: beseech
blackmale: blackmail
bobwire: barbed wire
buttkiss: bupkis, bupkus, bupkiss
cease the day: seize the day
chickens come home to roast: chickens come home to roost
curtsey call: courtesy call
cut off one’s nose despite one’s face: cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face
do diligence: due diligence
eardrop: eavesdrop
ease drop: eavesdrop
fast majority: vast majority
flaw in the ointment: fly in the ointment
for all intensive purposes: for all intents and purposes
French benefit: fringe benefit
from the gecko: from the get-go
furl one’s brow: furrow one’s brow
give free range: give free rein
give up the goat: give up the ghost
in lame man’s terms: in laymen’s terms
in the mist of: in the midst of
internally grateful: eternally grateful
it’s a doggy-dog world: it’s a dog-eat-dog world
kill over and die: keel over and die
lack toast and tolerant: lactose intolerant
like a bowl in a china shop: like a bull in a china shop
lip sing: lip sync
minus well: might as well
mix words: mince words
mood point: moot point
mute point: moot point
old-timer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease
on a whim and a prayer: on a wing and a prayer
on a wink and a prayer: on a wing and a prayer
outer body experience: out of body experience
part in parcel: part and parcel
Peace Core: Peace Corps.
peak one’s interest: pique one’s interest
pedal to the medal: pedal to the metal
pigment of someone’s imagination: figment of someone’s imagination
per say: per se
physical year: fiscal year
poke-a-dot: polka dot
pre-madonna: prima donna
pus jewel: pustule
put the cat before the horse: put the cart before the horse
rain supreme: reign supreme
rapid fan: rabid fan
rebel rouser: rabble rouser
roll-a-coaster: roller coaster
shoe-in: shoo-in
someone’s lips are steeled: someone’s lips are sealed
skin milk: skim milk
soak one’s wild oats: sow one’s wild oats
spread like wildflowers: spread like wildfire
stark raven mad: stark raving mad
ten-year track position: tenured track position
tow the line: toe the line
up to day: up to date
up to stuff: up to snuff
vintage point: vantage point

3 thoughts on “Eggcorns and nauseum: The hilarious effects of turns of phrase

  1. Pingback: Eggcorns….Reanalysis of English! – Leviathan Liberty Times

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