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An acorn. The fact that a woman had for a long time believed it to be called an “egg corn” led linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum to suggest that linguistic mistakes of this sort should be termed eggcorns.


Suggested by British-American linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum (born 1945) following a discussion on the Language Log website on September 23, 2003 by American linguist Mark Liberman about a woman who had long believed the word acorn to be egg corn.[1]




eggcorn ‎(plural eggcorns)

  1. (linguistics) An idiosyncratic but semantically motivated substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound identical, or nearly so, at least in the dialect the speaker uses.
    • 2003 September 30, Mark Liberman, “Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???”, in Language Log[2], archived from the original on 25 March 2016:
      update (9/30/2003): Geoff Pullum suggests that if no suitable term already exists for cases like this, we should call them "egg corns", in the metonymic tradition of "mondegreen", since the eponymous solution of "malapropism" and "spoonerism" is not appropriate.
    • 2005, Ben[jamin] Zimmer, “Eggcorn Database”, in alt.usage.english, Usenet:
      The Language Loggers have argued that it's useful to distinguish eggcorns from classic malapropisms (e.g., "allegory" for "alligator", "oracular" for "vernacular", "fortuitous" for "fortunate"), in which a word is replaced by one with a vague similarity of sound. An eggcorn relies on a substitution that is phonologically very similar (even homophonous), and the result is one that is semantically justifiable (even if the justification is far-fetched).
    • 2005 November 5, Chris Waigl, “The Eggcornin' Bob Dylan”, in alt.usage.english, Usenet[3]:
      What is also required of eggcorns is phonetic closeness -- they should do better than "electrocution" for "elocution" or "allegory" for "alligator". This is something they have in common with mondegreens, but the similarity ends there. Mondegreens are errors of perception, not of production, and they are related to specific auditory material: []
    • 2006 March 1, Mark Peters, “Word watch: The eggcorn: A funny little poem and symptom of human intelligence and creativity”, in Psychology Today[4], archived from the original on 24 May 2016:
      Far from being simple goofs, an eggcorn provides a glimpse into everyday thought processes. Eggcorns do not signify ignorance but rather the opposite, []
    • 2006 October, Kerry Webb, “Lost? Misquoted? We want better communication!”, in inCite[5], volume 27, number 10, Australian Library and Information Association, archived from the original on 4 April 2016:
      An eggcorn is a term that is misunderstood and mangled, like ‘give up the goat’ or ‘hone in on’.
    • 2006 November 18, “Feedback”, in New Scientist[6], archived from the original on 24 May 2016, page 218:
      Our report of a relative who, as a child, thought the classic version of the Lord's Prayer began "Our father, a chart in heaven, Harold be thy name" stated that this type of mistake is known as an eggcorn. A number of readers have suggested that instances like this in which a whole phrase rather than just a word is misheard, should be called mondegreens rather than eggcorns.
    • 2007, Michael Erard, Um ...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, New York, N.Y.: Pantheon Books, ISBN 978-0-375-42356-7, page 211:
      [M]ost eggcorns remain individual idiosyncrasies [] But something like "pus jewel" (for "pustule") — which is an eggcorn []

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mark Liberman (23 September 2003), “Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???”, in Language Log[1], archived from the original on 25 March 2016: “Chris Potts has told me about a case in which a woman wrote “egg corns” for “acorns.” This might be taken to be a folk etymology, like “Jerusalem” for “girasole” in “Jerusalem artichoke” (a kind of sunflower). But it might also be treated as something like a mondegreen (also here and here), the kind of “slip of the ear” that is especially common in learning songs and poems. Finally, it's also something like a malapropism, where a word is mistakenly substituted for one of similar sound shape. / Although the example is somewhat like each of these three named categories of errors, it's not exactly any of them. Can anyone suggest a better term?”.
  • Eggcorn database
  • Michael Quinion (accessed 6 April 2016), “Centrifical force”, in World Wide Words[7], archived from the original on 6 April 2016: “[The word centrifical is] an example of what some American linguists have recently begun to refer to informally as an eggcorn: a spell-as-you-speak error. (Geoffrey Pullum invented the name in 2003. It comes from the story of an American woman who wrote egg corns when she meant acorns, since in her dialect the first vowels are identical; she probably also says beg like the first syllable of bagel. Other eggcorn examples are supposably for supposedly, nucular for nuclear, and intrical when integral is meant.)”.
  • “Great words: Eggcorn”, in Metaforix@[8], 5 December 2004, archived from the original on 18 May 2008.