That's What They Say
8:05 am
Sun February 16, 2014

Eggcorns: When wrong becomes right

The expression for all intents and purposes has become, for some folks, an expression about purposes that are intensive.

On this week’s edition of That’s What They Say, University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan and Host Rina Miller discuss eggcorns, or new expressions developed when the original sayings are misheard or misinterpreted.

Linguists at the Language Log coined the term eggcorn to describe these modified phrases in 2003.

“The term eggcorn comes from the reshaping of the word acorn,” Curzan explains. “When people hear acorn, some people reinterpret it as eggcorn because it’s kind of shaped like an egg and it has a seed.”

Some speakers use the eggcorn curl up in feeble position instead of curl up in fetal position. Since a person in the fetal position is weak and vulnerable, this eggcorn retains original utterance's meaning. 

Similarly, nip it in the bud has been misheard as nip it in the butt.

“You do want to nip it in the bud early because otherwise it will come back and bite you in the you-know-what,” Curzan jokes.

Other eggcorns include one in the same (instead of one and the same), cutting off one’s nose despite one’s face (instead of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face), and dough-eyed (instead doe-eyed).

Want to learn more eggcorns? Find them on the eggcorn database and let us know your favorites by writing on our Facebook wall.

-Clare Toeniskoetter, Michigan Radio Newsroom 

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