Sunday with Zin: Literaria – Eggcorns!

Hello I am Zin and I just learned a new literary device: the eggcorn!

I do not think this is strictly speaking a literary device since it is more like a Happy Accident as my idol Bob Ross used to say! It is descriptive of a particular kind of mistake rather than a language tool.

The definition, direct from the A-Word-A-Day:

noun: An erroneous alteration of a word or phrase, by replacing an original word with a similar sounding word, such that the new word or phrase also makes a kind of sense.
For example: “ex-patriot” instead of “expatriate” and “mating name” instead of “maiden name”.

Coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum (b. 1945) in 2003. From the substitution of the word acorn with eggcorn. Earliest documented use as a name for this phenomenon is from 2003, though the term eggcorn has been found going back as far as 1844, as “egg corn bread” for “acorn bread”.

This week at A-W0rd-A-Day was “Words for Linguistic Errors” and I knew the others like mondegreen and spoonerism but this was a new one! I was very happy to see the “colitis” reference because I spent years back in the days before there was an internet (or for that matter before FM radio was widely used for rock music so you could hear the lyrics better) trying to figure that one out!

When I was a teenager I read a Readers Digest article (yes, I read Readers Digest when I was a teenager, it was what was in the house) that included a long paean to “daunserly light” as sung about in the Star Spangled Banner: “Oh say can you see by the daunserly light…” The author who I do not remember (this was 40 or 45 years ago!) said he knew exactly the quality of that light: it was early dawn, everything was quiet, and the sky was a little pink with morning clouds. That is pretty evocative for something that does not exist!

So I actually knew about eggcorns a long time ago, I just never knew they had a name!

You can get daily emails from A-Word-A-Day with interesting words too! It is free! And they do not pester you with other things. I also get the OED Word of the Day, it is a lot of fun too! Sometimes they will be very common words but usually they come up with things like pogonotomy or pant-hoot.

By the way there is no such thing as a malamanteau (™ Randall Monroe of xkcd) but I think there should be!

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