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)

Impunity, Immunity

One reason I love my readers is that they take the time to tell me the following:

In two instances on Saturday you used an amusing eggcorn, "legal impunity", when you should have written "legal immunity". I googled the your version of the term and found only 12,500 references (one of which is from a November, 2006 entry on your own blog), whereas there are 114,000 results for the correct usage, including this wikipedia entry, which should help clarify your understanding.

Of course, I’m immune to pedantry. But you still punish me. While we’re on the subject, I should have written transgender woman, rather than transgendered, apparently.