August 07, 2006

Eggcorns going mainstream?

Barbara Wallraff's Word Court column in the September 2006 Atlantic features a basket of eggcorns: "to step foot in", "baited breath", "free reign", "hone in", "ripe with mistakes", "LAN line" (for "land line"), "magnate school", "shipping magnet". She unapologetically refers to these as eggcorns -- well, she does explain that

Language geeks have given the name eggcorns to usages of this kind—“spontaneous reshapings of known expressions” which seem to make sense.

and some might take offense, but these days, X geek seems to have become an informal way of saying "expert in X", though perhaps with just a tinge of unhealthy obsession. And she cites Chris Waigl's eggcorn database, and gives the URL.

Web counts also suggest that eggcorn is making its way in the world (though there's more than the usual amount of noise in the numbers -- what's up with mondegreen, Yahoo, a splog nest in need of cleaning out?):

  Google Yahoo MSN
malapropism 121,000 101,000 15,485
mondegreen 106,000 1,110,000 10,308
eggcorn 56,500 26,200 4,436
Posted by Mark Liberman at August 7, 2006 05:53 AM