The Eggcorns of Language

Language is so incredible. Granted I only know my own, but I am pretty positive that all languages have unending merits. We use language to expose ourselves, to hide ourselves, to be understood, and to try to understand one another. Words are a representation of our inner jumble--the biological orchestra going on, unseen, inside our brains. Sentences relaying our daily, unpoetic thoughts should be succinct, and precise in order to communicate exactly what it is that we mean. And don’t we have a desire to be consistently understood? Not only that, but we have a desire to understand. This super amazing thing happens when we can’t understand something: our brains try to fill in the gaps. 

This doesn’t only happen with scenery, or memories, or sounds, but it happens with word meanings, too. This is where Eggcorns come in. Eggcorns are this totally awesome linguistic phenomenon where words, or phrases are misheard but the meaning of the result of the mishearing still makes sense in context. Take for example the word acorn. If you heard the word acorn, and knew what an acorn was, but had no idea how to spell it, eggcorn might still make sense, as an acorn is partly shaped like an egg, and is a small kernel, like corn.

Another common example is the mishearing of Alzheimer’s Disease as Old-Timers Disease, which still makes sense.

You can read all about Eggcorns over at the Eggcorn Database.

Eggcorns were first noted in a University of Pennsylvania Language Log entry by Geoffrey Pullum on September 23rd, 2003. Make sure you read all about mondegreens and malapropisms, too. You probably won’t make any friends by scrolling through the new Language Log on a Friday night, but you’ll definitely end up with some interesting stuff to talk about if you ever do get invited to a party.


Courtney Davison is the Editorial Intern for Paper Darts. She loves getting mail, eating snacks and wants to be remembered as (a) part(y) animal.

Cyril Rolando (aka Aquasixio)

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