close up of acorns

From little egg corns mighty oats grow

Language, to all intensive purposes, is just a means of communication. But it really tests my metal when I’m given a poorly written piece. I mean, I don’t like to be a damp squid about people’s creative work, and it doesn’t have to come to me in top draw condition, but sometimes giving a writer free reign is just asking for trouble. But I won’t be a pre-Madonna about it. As long as the writer has passion, their work will pass mustard.

Fun fact! There are seven eggcorns in that paragraph. An eggcorn is defined on Wikipedia as:

“The alteration of a phrase through the mishearing or reinterpretation of one or more of its elements, creating a new phrase having a different meaning from the original but which still makes sense and is plausible when used in the same context.”

​A little like a malapropism, another of my favourite comical language cock-ups.

‘To all intensive purposes’ is a really common one (it should be ‘all intents and purposes’); as is ‘free reign’ (which should be ‘free rein’. That one really doesn’t change the meaning too much; if you’re giving free rein to something or someone, they can do what they want – so they do reign, I suppose?).

I love ‘damp squid’ instead of ‘damp squib’. A damp squid might sound logical but the correct phrase refers to a firework – aka a squib – becoming damp and therefore failing to explode.

Another common one: ‘to the manor born’, which should be ‘to the manner born’ (from Shakespeare’s Hamlet). I blame the BBC series starring Penelope Keith for that one.

One I once got wrong myself at work was leach. I overlooked a sentence, I think it was about a cosmetic leaching blackheads, or something, and allowed it to slip through as leeching. Slightly different contexts.

To leach is to ‘to dissolve out by the action of a percolating liquid’ or ‘to draw out or remove as if by percolation; to leech is ‘to bleed by the use of leeches’ or ‘to drain the substance of’. An understandable mistake but could have been embarrassing for the cosmetics firm.

Any other eggcorns? Oh yes! ‘Another think coming’ – that’s just a big no-no. It should be ‘another thing coming’. ‘Escape goat’ instead of ‘scape goat’; oh oh oh – ‘expresso’ instead of ‘espresso’. If I were a barista I would refuse to serve anyone who said expresso. I’d get fired pretty quickly.

The wonderful and voluble Gloria in Modern Family makes me laugh with her ‘doggy dog world’ (which sounds a lot nicer than a ‘dog eat dog’ one). I wouldn’t correct Gloria though. She’s far too scary. I would definitely toe the line (rather than tow it 😉).

What’s your favourite eggcorn?

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