September 26, 2004

Happy birthday, eggcorn!

The term "eggcorn", meaning a nonce or sporadic folk etymology, was coined by Geoff Pullum almost exactly one year ago -- September 30, 2004. Since then, it's caught on to the extent that {"eggcorn|eggcorns"} gets 3,680 hits on Google.

Some of these hits are real eggcorns, if I can put it that way:

(link) Also I have oak trees in my pasture. My vet said my horses would be ok because they shouldn't eat the eggcorns. But everything I read says they are poiseneous...
(link) This animal eats mostly berries and eggcorns.

But most seem to be uses of the newly-coined term. I've been saving up new examples for the past couple of weeks, mostly as cited in weblogs I read, or sent it by email. Here are a few of them -- I'll add some more later.

On 9/05, entangled bank posted about "wrought with pain/errors":

Either an eggcorn or a development of a new verb form. Wrought is being treated as meaning racked or fraught, in senses such as wrought with pain, wrought with errors. In fact racked makes better sense as an origin for the first, fraught for the second, and it's picking up on the fact that racked with is often spelt wracked with by association with the older word wrack = wreck.

(And in response to entangled's 9/15 "FINAL POST", I sincerely echo TstT's entreaty: "Don't do it, man! You've got so much to blog for!")

On 9/15, wolf angel posted about the substitution "uncharted waters" → "unchartered waters", and commenters on the post added

"deep seated" → "deep seeded"
"a grain of salt" → "a grain assault"
"pummeling"→ "pommeling"

By email, Linda Seebach contributed an example from a comment on a post on Arnold Kling's blog:

The Coup de grasse must be a friend who bought a House for $18,500 in 1965, and sold it for $92,300 last year.

As Linda pointed out, "Notice he knows it isn't 'grass.'"

Linda also contributed a "different kind of mistake, from someone writing a letter to the Mensa Bulletin":

Few Americans seem to realize that, had the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Florida Supreme Court to interfere extra-legally, blood would have flown in the streets of America.

I share Linda's reaction to that one: "That was so odd I had to think for a while before I could figure out what was wrong with it."

Philip Brooks emailed a citation from a Sports Illustrated story:

"What a game to go off for a career high. Forte scored 17 of his 28 in the second half, 10 during a 14-4 run that turned a tie game into a 53-53 Carolina lead. This wise-beyond-his-ears freshman has been UNC's go-to guy and only consistent scorer all season, and he delivered in a big way Sunday."

As Philip pointed out, this one could be a joke or a typographical error.

Badaunt emailed this:

I've just encountered another eggcorn to add to your list, (if you want more):

Someone wrote a comment on my blog saying: 'I suspect I had an outer body experience at the age of 10.'

I googled on 'outer body experience' and discovered there's a brand of bath and beauty products called 'Outer Body Experience' which confuses things a bit, but the eggcorn seems quite common, too. Googling on

 "outer body experience" -beauty -products -soap

gets 1370 hits.

and Googling on

"out of body experience"

gets 62,400.

(What is the etiquette when someone lays an eggcorn on your blog? Should I correct him/her, or would that be rude?)

My own reaction, for what little it's worth, is (a) it would be rude to make an explicit correction in public, (b) it would be OK to explain the situation, in a gentle way, by email, and (c) if you wind up responding in a way that uses the same word or phrase, it's OK to use the standard version rather than accomodating to the eggcorn. Also, I think that outer body experiences are the very best kind!

Fernando Pereira emailed a subtle case. Is the phrase "ready and roaring to make a go" in this article a substitution for "raring to go", or just a different and less commonplace expression?

Since the June 21 flight of SpaceShipOne at the Mojave Airport in  California, rumors have grown that Scaled Composites is ready and roaring to make a go at the Ansari X Prize.


Posted by Mark Liberman at September 26, 2004 01:12 PM