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Suggested by British-American linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum 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) a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase either on its own or as part of a set expression [from 2003]
    • 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, 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?

Further reading[edit]