Thursday, February 21, 2013

Searching for Eggcorns

Today's Word.A.Day email explained what "Eggcorn" is.  (You do get Word.A.Day, right?  It's a great resource, if you haven't heard me say so here or here or here). 

noun: An erroneous alteration of a word or phrase, by replacing an original word with a similar sounding word, such that the new word or phrase also makes a kind of sense.
For example: "ex-patriot" instead of "expatriate" and "mating name" instead of "maiden name".

Coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum (b. 1945) in 2003. From the substitution of the word acorn with eggcorn. Earliest documented use as a name for this phenomenon is from 2003, though the term eggcorn has been found going back as far as 1844, as "egg corn bread" for "acorn bread".

"Will eggcorns continue to hatch? This is a moot point (or is that mute?). Yet certainly anyone waiting with 'baited' (bated) breath for 'whole scale' (wholesale) changes may need to wait a while."
Bill & Rich Sones; If Elevator Falls, Don't Jump to Conclusions; Salt Lake Telegram (Utah); Jul 3, 2008.

I even found a list of Eggcorns here. Looking it over, I can identify several I have seen in some manuscripts:
  • Cadillac converter see catalytic » Cadillac
  • clique » click 
  • cue » queue
  • deep-seeded see seat » seed
  • do diligence see due » do
  • flout » flaunt
  • overdue » overdo 
  • sort after see sought » sort
  • take another tact see tack » tact
So, what can you do to be aware of eggcorns in your manuscript?  Take a look at the list, familiarize yourself with some of the common ones.  Or, hire me!

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