Monday, October 1, 2012

Eggcorns... and other spelling errors

In the category of "Not sure why I didn't know about this before..."  I just learned about eggcorns from the Language Log, a great blog on the vagaries of language in all of its forms. 

An eggcorn is a substitution of one word for another that sounds the same (a homophone), but is actually not quite right.  (As opposed to simple errors like "they're" when you meant "their.")  It was coined by Geoffrey Pullum in September 2003 on the Language Log blog as the term describing why some people hear the word "acorn" and write "egg corn."  

"...a social moray..."  No, a social more (an agreed upon standard of behavior or ethics), cannot be replaced by a moray, no matter how slippery the topic is.   
"Anchors away!"  No, the correct spelling is "aweigh," as when an anchor is raised from the sea bed.   
"to hone in on a target..."  Again, no, the right word here is "home."  While honing sharpened a blade towards the perfectly sharp edge, that's not the same action as "homing in..." on the target.  
For dozens more examples, check out the blog link above.  It's a beautiful analysis of how eggcorns enter into common usage... and ultimately, why this is useful to know for search purposes.  

Still wondering what this has to do with search?  

If you can anticipate an eggcorn, you'll be able to search out results that aren't often found primarily because they're typos... they're not quite the right word.  If you know that certain substitutions are relatively commonplace, you'll have the inside track (and not the "inside truck") on pulling those hits out of the morass.  

Searching on... for eggcorns under the folk tree! 


  1. lotto radium people commenting authoritatively that spiderpig will drink your eggcornshake - bone fiddles may not be indicting of fax - thanks for letting me get that off my chess.
    Folk, and eh, Canadia rues - justin sayin'.

  2. Dr. Daniel, great topic. This is very intersting and new for me. Thank you for sharing it.

    How people who have English as a second language can identify one? Any advice on how to make better searches if eggcorns are involved?

    Thank you

  3. Interesting discussion of difference between eggcorns and Mondegreens.

    And then there are malapropisms. All versions of the same type of error. Had never heard of eggcorns.