Busted With An Eggcorn

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 16 2014 @ 3:54pm

Well this is embarrassing. I’ve been righteously hauled in front of the language observers for the following boo-boo:

But it could give the neocons a new leash on life, a way to invigorate their exhausted ideological engines. (Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, July 9, 2007)

Of course, I should have written lease on life. But for some reason, the sound of the word in my head came out as “leash” on the screen. This is what is called an “eggcorn”, a term new to me but a lovely neologism. An “eggcorn” is essentially a malapropism that apes the sound of a word: so someone once wrote the term “eggcorn” to mean “acorn”. Among some other examples:

When all was set and done, the missed shot didn’t mean anything but the impact from the opposing crowd was felt throughout every inch of Crisler Arena. (The Michigan Daily, Feb. 11, 2010)

First it was the far right, which signaled out “Spongebob” for promoting a gay and global-warming agendas. (Daniel Frankel, Reuters/The Wrap, Sep. 11, 2011)

I found an eggcorn at brunch yesterday! My boyfriend asked me if I liked the holiday sauce on my poached eggs. I asked him to repeat himself so I could be sure of what I’d heard. Once I told him the actual name of the sauce, he said that he’d always wondered what holiday the sauce was originally from.

The United States is a country with a prosperous past, but also one straddled with an uncommonly uncertain future. (Philip Mooney, Daily Princetonian, Nov. 28, 2011)

My personal fave:

Without addressing these issues, NOW and others have nothing to offer the average Jane and in consequence, have allowed Sarah Palin and her elk to define women’s issues. (New York Times Opinionator blog comment, Dec 4, 2009)

It’s particularly common when you’re not used to using the word in writing, but only in speech. And we all have our blind spots. Jeannette Winterson:

I laboured long into adult life really believing that there was such a thing as a “damp squid”, which of course there is, and when things go wrong they do feel very like a damp squid to me, sort of squidgy and suckery and slippery and misshapen. Is a faulty firework really a better description of disappointment?

Are there any you have coined recently? Points for maximal embarrassment.

(Thumbnail image by Edd Prince)