Straight away, you’re probably already wondering what an eggcorn even is. Eggcorns are words or phrases we often mishear or misinterpret and use incorrectly. Basically, we substitute words for ones that sound similar.
Let’s be more “pacific”. Common eggcorns include “biting my time” and “Chester drawers”. They can be embarrassing and funny or they can be completely understandable and forgivable. But here’s the thing: they’re surprisingly common. If you’ve used one, then welcome to the club; research shows us Brits say an eggcorn three times a month.
But enough of that. We both know why you’re here. You’re here for a laugh so let’s crack (no pun intended!) on:
- Escape goat. This one conjures up the delightful mental image of some circus-trained Houdini-like goat who can free himself from thick, heavy chains while at the bottom of a tank full of water. It should be just “scapegoat”.
- Butt naked. Okay, I’ll admit I’m guilty of using this one. And I’ve no shame because, to be honest, it sounds better. And if you get through this blog without finding one that you’ve used at some point, then hats off to you. “Butt naked” comes from “buck naked”.
- Expresso. We all know someone who graduated from this eggcorn long ago and since has taken to scolding anyone unfortunate enough to utter it within earshot. “Sorry, it’s actually ESpresso… yeah, with an S”.
- Valentime’s day. This makes sense. It’s the “time” of year we appreciate loved ones. But you can just picture Saint Valentine rolling in his grave every year as the 14th creeps up and everyone’s pronouncing his name wrong.
- Pre-Madonna. This eggcorn implies such a deep devotion to pop icon Madonna that, similar to B.C in the case of Jesus, we’ve started using a phrase to describe a time before Madonna took over the world. Unfortunately, it’s “prima donna”, the chief female singer in an opera or a temperamental person who believes they’re more talented than they are.
- Social leopard. Social leopard sounds like the coolest thing ever. Maybe even the male counterpart to the social butterfly. But it’s a mishearing of “social leper” which conjures up a completely different image indeed.
- Nip it in the butt. This should be “nip it in the bud” as in stop or destroy something in its early stages. Not bite someone’s rear. What is it with eggcorns and butts?
- Heimlich remover. Again, this is completely understandable. You’re “removing” an object that’s obstructing someone’s airway, right? Right, but it’s “Heimlich manoeuvre”.
- Doggie-dog world. Sophia Vergara’s character used this eggcorn in Modern Family. When she was told it’s actually “dog-eat-dog world” she said it was a stupid phrase. “Who wants to live in a world where dogs eat dogs? Doggie-dog is just lots of dogs and it sounds great” or something along those lines. And I agree. But sadly, it’s a “dog-eat-dog world”.
- Coldslaw. It’s served cold so fair enough if you thought it was “coldslaw”. But it’s actually “coleslaw” which, according to my quick Google, comes from the Dutch expression “koosla” which means “cabbage salad”.
- Another think/thing coming. I saved this for last, as it’s the most interesting and a great example of how language changes over time. According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase “another think coming” predates “another thing coming”. This suggests that “thing” is actually the eggcorn. But nowadays “thing” is so commonly used that many believe the original “think” to be the eggcorn. It begs the question if other eggcorns could become so popular that they replace their original phrases. Maybe in a few hundred years, we’ll be passing the “luck” and the writing will be on the “stall”.
There are hundreds of eggcorns and I encourage you to look them up if for no other reason than to brighten your day or improve your writing. Hopefully, this article highlighted the importance of proofreading your work so you can avoid the “foe par” of misspelling some of the most common phrases in the English language. But eggcorns can be hard to avoid, and checking every single word can feel like pulling teeth. That’s where we come in.
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