Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

More tumble in:

An example of an eggcorn has stayed alive in my memory for many years.  A coworker, a smart college student, referred to an injury as having left whelps on his arm.  Unable to resist, I started my version of canine howling.  He quickly realized he was using the wrong term and we would howl together when other poor souls misused the word thereafter.


I didn’t know this thread was still active, so here’s my eggcorn. 

My wife and I were watching a cooking show and the segment was on beef roasts. The chef said we should cut the FAT CAP off the roast prior to searing it. My wife heard it as FAT CAT. Yes, that layer of fat on a roast can look like a cat, if the cat has white fur. I liked her description better and it conjures up the whole idea of skinning the fat cats with tax increases, which I think is a good idea.


I know now the Pennsylvania illustrator I interviewed for a class essay said she would give up illustration if it ever lost that “olfactory feel,” but what I heard at the time, and what found its way into my essay, was “that old factory feel.” I thought she meant to rough feel of paints and turpentine, but she meant the aroma of paint and turpentine. I did not catch this until several years later, rereading the essay.


No funny story, but I have heard this on occasion: Rock-weiler instead of Rottweiler.

Another points to Wikipedia:

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher was psychologically tortured, such as being put through a mock firing squad in an effort to make him confess. Eventually the Koreans threatened to execute his men in front of him, and Bucher relented and agreed to “confess to his and the crew’s transgression.” Bucher wrote the confession since a “confession” by definition needed to be written by the confessor himself. They verified the meaning of what he wrote, but failed to catch the pun when he said “We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung”. (The word “paean” sounds identical to the term “pee on” in American English.)

Update from another:

My boss, complaining about new regulations in the mortgage lending industry in the ’90s: “We’re getting raped over the coals.”


Many years ago, I listened to the radio while applying makeup before going to work in the morning. I usually heard, with not much interest, the announcers giving baseball scores and accounts of the previous day’s games. Some years later I delighted my husband and his best friend by relating my understanding of the expression, “there’s one up in the win column.” I had heard it as “wind column.” Made perfect sense to me. The ball had been caught by the wind and gone higher than usual, resulting in a score.

One more:

When my wife and I were young and very poor, we went to a free clinic in Ocean City, Maryland to get birth control. In the waiting room we eavesdropped on a couple younger than ourselves, so they must have been teenagers. The girl went in, had her exam, came back to report the results to her boyfriend and announced that she needed a pap smear. To which her boyfriend, mystified, said, “The doctor says you need a Pabst Beer?”

The Best Threads Of 2014: “Busted With An Eggcorn”

This fun reader thread is a good way to balance out the heavy one on corporal punishment and also a primeacorns-side example of the collective wit of our readership. A reminder of what an eggcorn is: “a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one that sounds very similar or identical.” The thread started when the Guardian called me out for using “leash on life” back in 2007. The resulting avalanche of eggcorns from readers is here. Below are many more new examples:

Don’t know if this is an eggcorn or malaprop, but a student in a quiz just referred to the apostle Paul doing something “by the seed of his pants”.

Another reader:

I saw this phrase in a user email from Bill Simmons’ NFL Week 15 mail bag. A question from a Cleveland Browns fan used this hilarious eggcorn, which I’ve never before seen. I didn’t even finish the paragraph before rushing off to email The Dish. Here’s an excerpt of his email with the gem of a phrase in context (italics mine):

The Browns will win just enough games next season to regress back to their yearly average of five wins, and Jimmy Haslem, tired of scamming truckers and cross-country-vacationers and other middle class pee-ons, will throw a temper tantrum, clean house, and repeat this miserable cycle until the team moves to LA and wins a Super Bowl.


Until very recently I thought that a Hobson’s Choice (a choice where there is not choice at all “take it or leave it”) was actually a “hostage choice.” Personally I think my version is far more descriptive.


One of my friends, describing an interaction with his ex-wife:  “… and then she went bombastic on me.”

And another:

My friend and his son see a dead bird, and his son asks him if birds can get to heaven, since they don’t have any skin. My friend says, “First of all, they do have skin – underneath their feathers – and second, what does that have to do with heaven?”  Son: “because when you get to heaven, Jesus takes all of your skins!” This is an atheist family – he has no idea how his son learned about Hannibal Lecter Jesus.

Another religious misfire:

Courtesy of Scott Walker: “Molotov” in lieu of “Mazel Tov”.  It seems that he may be taking the idea of the stern, vengeful diety of the Old Testament a bit too far.

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

One more round of reader eggcorns:

I’ve been enjoying the thread.  And then earlier tonight during happy hour, a friend said: “My Mom has a heart on for Pope Francis.”  I didn’t even bring attention to it, I just immediately thought, “I need to write the Dish!”


Someone said “Jew him down” around me when I was 15 and working  in an antique store one summer. But I heard “chew him down.”

I figured it meant when you talk someone into giving you a lower price one something, when you haggle, your jaw is moving up and down. You’re chewing down the price. Chewing them down. Chew him down.

I didn’t have tons of cause to use the expression once I was no longer working in an antique store, but I did use it from time to time, as I like to go to junk sales and flea markets. I think I was nearly 25 when I used it in front of the right person – someone who gasped, looked me in the eye, and said, “I can’t believe you would say something like that.” I was completely mortified when she told me what I actually heard in that antique store when I was 15.


I once mentioned to my wife that there was a new tapas bar in town and that we should go there, to which she responded, “Why would you want us to go to a topless bar!”


I can’t believe it took me so long to remember my biggest eggcorn. I’ve been saying since I was a kid that, in cold weather, “It’s a bit nipply outside.”

And another:

Okay, I haven’t seen this one show up on The Dish yet. I work in a group that designs and operates cutting-edge satellite instruments. One of my co-workers is an engineer known for being the best worrier in our building that something might go wrong with the latest instrument. My favorite phrase he always uses whenever he wants to point out a possible problem with a design or plan we’ve come up with is to start by saying: “But the flaw in the ointment is … “


I’m a family law trial attorney and often hear clients complain about being “lamblasted” by their spouses, etc. in relation to their often caustic situations.  I’ve always loved that, and I never correct them!


I’ve been greatly enjoying your threads on eggcorns, mostly because I feel like I’ve committed half of them myself.  Here’s another: When I was a kid, growing up in DC in the ’80s, my parents were friends with a couple named Mary and Barry.  They were always saying things like “we’re going out with Mary an’ Barry tonight,” etc.  I spent a good portion of my childhood thinking my parents were great friends with the mayor!


As a physician, my all-time favorite eggcorn is “sick-as-hell anemia”.

One more:

Years ago my then three year old son was having a tantrum about something I have long since forgotten.  Trying to make peace, I suggested he come join me for a nice bowl of chicken soup.  “NO!,” he screamed.  “OK, suit yourself,” says I.  “No, YOU shoot YOUR-self!!,” came the outraged reply.  Holy Moly.  He has since grown into a kind and gentle young man.

Read all of the reader entries here.

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

The eggcorns keep tumbling from the in-tray:

I’m surprised you haven’t published this one yet.  I used to work in a methadone clinic with folks who were quite low on the socioeconomic ladder.  On more than one occasion, someone would talk about how sad they were feeling about a family member or friend who was struggling with “ole’ timer’s disease” instead of Alzheimer’s.  I never had the heart to correct them and always found it a little charming.

Somewhat less charming:

My roommate believes that Nazis saluting the fuehrer proclaimed “Hi Hitler!”


Right after I read your post about eggcorns, I came across this in last Sunday’s NY Times magazine feature about Lena Dunham:

Passers-by routinely stopped to say hello and sputter out praise. “Thank you so much,” Dunham said again and again — to a middle-aged black woman; to a tanned and slender young blonde who, in a rather brilliant malapropism, said, “I’d be remorse if I didn’t stop and say how much I love your work” …

One of many more:

I know it’s probably too late, but I couldn’t keep my eggcorn in any longer.

Growing up I thought the phrase “ends meet” was actually “end’s meat”.  I assumed that the end of the meat was the cheapest cut, so I thought that the phrase referred to people who were in such dire straits that they couldn’t even afford “end’s meat.”


I once had a coworker who would frequently say we “need to get our ducks on the road.” No one ever corrected her. Too much enjoyment came from it.


I think this student may have misheard something in a lecture on Hobbes.  His essay contained the immortal “In the state of nature, people were nasty, British, and short.”


I’m really enjoying this thread of eggcorns. My contribution: Until I was 10 or so, I always thought it was a “bow-a-movement” instead of a “bowel movement”, since you usually bowed when on the pot.


My wife, despite numerous corrections (which are dangerous to my health), continues to refer to Silicon Valley as Silicone Valley. I’ve tried to point out that Silicone Valley is probably more Hollywood than San Francisco.


I work in research and used to transcribe some of the interviews I did. Sometimes some answers are a nice “segue to the next question,” but it took me years to finally realize that it has nothing to do with segway – which is how I spelled it, since I had always assumed the stupid two-wheel transportation thing is just a namesake.


When I was a young girl and very into dinosaurs, I thought that they had been wiped out by a “giant meat-eater,” never having heard of a meteor. I pictured a King Kong-sized T-Rex running around eating all of the other dinosaurs. The truth came out when I decided to do a school project on dinosaur extinction. My parents thought it was adorable.

One more:

Every year on Christmas Eve my mom would prepare a huge family dinner that included filet mignon.  As a kid this sounded like “flaming yon” which made perfect sense – I thought “yon” was a type of meat, and you had to cook it, hence the “flaming” part.

Follow the whole trail of eggcorns here.

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

A classic Dish thread continues:

I used to think people were saying they need to “make a piss stop” when going to the restroom at work, instead of pitt stop. One day I earnestly asked a female colleague, “Are they saying ‘piss stop’ or is it ‘pitt stop’??” And so she spit out her water and broke out on laughter, and then, you know how a woman will look at you like you’ve totally lost your mind again. But I really didn’t know.

Another eggcorn:

From a student paper, several years back: “It’s a doggie-dog world.”


My wife had, for the past 20+ years, always said “connipshit” instead of “conniption.”  I finally made her repeat it to me after she said it two-three times in a day and verified she thought the word was “connipshit.”  But I can’t say I blame her; people in a conniption are usually in a connipshit as well.


I recently wrote an email to a client where I said that allowing something to happen would set a “very bad president.” (For the record, it was not a Freudian slip; I’m an Obama supporter.)

That’s actually a malapropism, which many readers are still confusing for an eggcorn (though often the distinction can be tricky). Here’s Wiki again:

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn.


I had a friend in college that swore up and down that it was a “greatfruit”. But in his defense, they are nothing like a grape and they are pretty great.


My wife likes to tell how when she was younger and watched Star Wars, they said the Jedi used a “Life Saver” instead of a Light Saber. They were trying to save people, after all.

And here’s a “gem of an eggcorn from my father, a reporter at a local newspaper”:

One of our writers on Tuesday was reporting on a homicide near a brothel. Or as he inadvertently put it, “a house of proposition.” (It did not get into print.)

Another paper doesn’t seem as diligent:

Here’s another eggcorn from yesterday’s WaPo: “Now, North Korea has decided to take a different tact.”

Another reader:

When I was a precocious youth, I thought that “&” was called a “standsforand” rather than an “ampersand”.


I hear this one often “This doesn’t jive with what he was saying” rather than “jibe”.  I admit I prefer jive.

On a more colloquial note, when I was a child and asked for something that my mother thought I should get for myself, she would say “What are you?  Lady Cement?”.  Years later I realized she was saying “Laid in cement”.   I never thought to question her use of “what” instead of “who”.  Maybe I just liked being a “Lady”.


I grew up Catholic, when I was making my First Holy Communion and learning the prayers associated with the rosary.  I asked my mother why we would say “Hell, Mary full of grace.”  What can I say, I grew up in West Texas and “hell” sounded like “hail” to me.


I hear “butt naked” for “buck naked” all the time here in Utah.


I’m a marine biologist, and I was at a curriculum meeting last Friday where I said that we didn’t want students to be “floundering” in a poorly organized course.  My colleague, a fish biologist, got a little smile on his face. He told me that I shouldn’t malign the flounders like that.  I still didn’t get it until he and another colleague clarified that the word is “foundering”, like a ship founders (apparently, I haven’t read enough Horatio Hornblower…).  Well, I won’t embarrass myself or insult the Pleuronectiformes again!

Update from a reader:

Your writer who was corrected by his colleagues actually used the word “flounder” appropriately.  It’s definition (as a verb) is “to struggle clumsily or helplessly (e.g. “He floundered helplessly on the first day of his new job.”)” So his statement that “we didn’t want students to be ‘floundering’ in a poorly organized course” works just fine.


Until the day I die I’ll remember Archie Bunker from “All in the Family” saying “Groin Ecologist” when referring to Edith’s gynecologist.

Dish editor Chris chimes in:

I used to say “lacks-adaisical” instead of “lackadaisical” until my girlfriend corrected me one day. I guess I subconsciously made a connection between the similar meanings of “lax” and “lackadaisical”.

Several more eggcorns:

I’m sure at least one other reader has written to you about the affable British comedy duo Adam & Joe, who used to have a radio show on BBC 6 Music. They got a lot of mileage out of eggcorns from their listeners, ranging from funny but understandable: “the pot calling the kettle back” and “curled up in the feeble position” to the quite bizarre: “this room looks like a bombsy tit.”

Check out the above video for more. Another reader:

One of my favorite eggcorns (at least I think it is) was from my days at a large telecom company.  An account manager wrote in an e-mail that went to several folks, including directors:  “We expect our customers to pay us in the rears! [not ‘arrears’]”  Heh.  I knew our sales people were pains in the butt, but I had no idea they thought of our customers that way! (BTW: please withhold my name if you include this in your list)

Also, thanks for all you do and thanks for having this post.  The news is killing me these days and this added a touch of sanity to the week.

If you need another mental health break in the future, check out the Eggcorn Database. Update from a reader:

Don’t you think the most fitting eggcorn for today is “Will Scotland succeed?”

See you in the morning, succession or not.

Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

A flood of emails came in following my bleg for examples of eggcorns. The most commonly cited one:

An eggcorn I am guilty of is “for all intents and purposes”.  I guess I thought it was an extreme statement, therefore I was guilty of stating the phrase as for all INTENSIVE purposes.


A former employer always said “let’s nip this in the butt” instead of bud, and I always had to stifle a laugh picturing what it would accomplish.


My favorite example dates back to the early ’90s, when an abstract for a presentation at a computer conference talked about the need to “integrate desperate mail systems”. Why yes, I’ve seen quite a few of those.

That’s actually a malapropism, which many readers are confusing for an eggcorn. Wikipedia helps with the distinction:

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn.

But we can’t pass up this malapropism:

My all-time favorite, culled from the annals of Freshman Literature classes everywhere, is Honoré de Ballsac.

Back to the eggcorns:

As a person who sends and receives thousands of so-called professional emails, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a point described as “mute” instead of “moot”.


For some reason my marketing colleagues are all about “flushing out” concepts these days, rather than fleshing them out. Granted, most of them would be better off flushed …


People routinely say “breech the subject” when (I’m 98% sure) they mean broach.

And another:

Not too embarrassing, but I long thought that in the Pledge of Allegiance, we were describing the attributes of the Almighty when we said, “one nation, under God, invisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

On that note:

One of my younger brothers when we were little thought the opening verse of the patriotic hymn America the Beautiful went like this: “O, Beautiful for spaceship guys … ”

Another reader:

When I was a kid, my father had an employee in his business who was somewhat developmentally challenged. He used tons of eggcorns, but my favorite was that he called varicose veins “very close veins” – a pretty good description.

One more for now:

Stevie Nicks’ song “Edge of Seventeen” is an eggcorn. Someone told Stevie they had been doing whatever it was they were doing since the age of seventeen. Stevie heard “edge of seventeen” and decided to use that as the title of one of her hit songs.

Many more to come …

Busted With An Eggcorn

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)