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Eggcorns on Jabberwocky, Babble's Parenting Dictionary.

A few weeks ago, my friend Dan – whose son Koey, as longtime readers know, has inspired columns before – wrote me with a new Koeyism. According to Dan, the lad said, “I used to think it was ‘movie feeder’ because of all the popcorn, but now I know it’s a movie theater.”I immediately thought this sounded like an “eggcorn,” a kind of language mistake named after a misspelling of “acorn” that linguists have been collecting since 2003, mostly at Language Log and the Eggcorn Database. Here are a dozen eggcorns:

putting the cat before the horse

cease the opportunity

lack toast and tolerant

on the spurt of the moment

whoa is me

girdle one’s loins

stark raven mad

financial heartship

mute point

like a bowl in a china shop

without further adieu

chickens come home to roast

Eggcorns are a kinder, gentler type of mistake, showing more intelligence than dumbassitude. As linguist Geoffrey Pullum has said, “It would be so easy to dismiss eggcorns as signs of illiteracy and stupidity, but they are nothing of the sort. They are imaginative attempts at relating something heard to lexical material already known.” Sure enough, all of the above errors make as much sense (or nearly) as the original expressions, and some eggcorns are so common – “straight-laced” and “free reign,” for example – that they are gradually becoming accepted variations.

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