Favorite

Words, Aug. 26 

William D. Lindsey writes:

"In the Words column Aug. 12, Ray White asks 'Don't linguists have a name for a phrase that is misunderstood and then the misunderstanding overtakes the original?' I think perhaps the term Mr. White is searching for is 'eggcorn.' "

Could be. According to Wikipedia, an eggcorn is "an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar ... The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as 'old-timers' disease' for 'Alzheimer's disease.' " This is opposed to a malapropism, where the substitution creates a nonsensical phrase, such as Mrs. Malaprop's report of an allegory on the banks of the Nile. A character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play "The Rivals," Mrs. Malaprop gave her name to this sort of error. Eggcorn, a word only a few years old, is supposedly derived from the case of a woman who said eggcorn for acorn.

A cousin of eggcorn and malapropism is the mondegreen, which we discussed previously. A mondegreen is a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something that was sung or said, as 'There's a bathroom on the right' for 'There's a bad moon on the rise.' But a mondegreen doesn't drive out the original. An eggcorn may, or at least come close. I see ex-patriots almost as often as expatriates these days, and hone in is gaining on home in.

"Eggcorns seem to be proliferating in American English for a number of reasons," Lindsey writes. "One, I think, is the Internet. People seem increasingly to type out (sound out) online whatever they think they've heard, regardless of grammar, syntax, spelling, or linguistic accuracy. The other factor, I suspect, is that attention to language is just not taught as well as it should be in our school system." He mentions a young man of his acquaintance who "just finished a BA at Fayetteville, and who is bright and fairly well read, but who spells at a level that would have been considered fourth-grade when I was growing up."

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Redefining candidate quality

    Despite what national party organizations like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee say, conventional definitions of candidate quality are not leading to progressive wins in 2018.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Redefining candidate quality

    • "It's the grassroots fire that ignited in the days and weeks after President Trump's election…

    • on April 20, 2018
  • Re: Week That Was

    • I saw James Comey interviewed by Stephen Colbert. When Stephen asked if trump was mentally…

    • on April 20, 2018
  • Re: Trump and Comey

    • Oh, so now it was the Comey release of the e-mails before the election to…

    • on April 19, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation