You May Not Know What Grammatical ‘Eggcorns’ Are, But You Probably Use Them A Lot

The English language is full of phrases and saying that makes perfect sense in our heads, but when it comes time to put these terms down on paper, they can leave us baffled.

We’re all familiar with homophones, two or more words that sound the same but have different meanings. But we’re about to introduce you to their distant half-cousin, eggcorns.

Eggcorns are a fairly new grammatical term, having only been used since early 2003. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an eggcorn is defined as, ” a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase.” The term eggcorns came to be after a lengthy discussion in which a woman misheard the word acorn as eggcorn. At the basis of most commonly recognized eggcorns, the misheard phrases often swap out the right words with homophones.

Here’s a collection of our favorite eggcorns that plenty of people are guilty of using every day!

1. “Doggy-dog world” instead of “dog-eat-dog world”

"Doggy-dog world" instead of "dog-eat-dog world"

Flickr / ccbarr

Used to describe a situation in which people compete with each other for success in a cruel and selfish way. First used in 1834.

2. “Buck naked” instead of “butt naked”

"Buck naked" instead of "butt naked"

Flickr / Joshua Ganderson

Completely naked. Not wearing clothes.

3. “Biting my time” instead of “biding my time”

"Biting my time" instead of "biding my time"

Flickr /Kārlis Dambrāns

To wait patiently for something to happen.

4. “Escape goat” instead of “scapegoat”

"Escape goat" instead of "scapegoat"

Flickr / Jennifer C.

A person wrongfully blamed for some sort of wrongdoing.

5. “World wind romance” instead of “whirlwind romance”

"World wind romance" instead of "whirlwind romance"

Flickr / Dmitry Kolesnikov

A quick and passionate romance

6. “Windshield factor” in place of “windchill factor”

"Windshield factor" in place of "windchill factor"

Flickr / Christina Xu

The perceived decreased temperature felt by the body during air flow.

7. “Takes two to tangle” instead of “takes two to tango”

"Takes two to tangle" instead of "takes two to tango"

Flickr / Luca Boldrini

The concept that it requires the cooperation of two or more people to accomplish a goal.

8. “Underbrella” in place of “umbrella”

"Underbrella" in place of "umbrella"

Flickr / Petteri Sulonen

A device used to protect against rainfall.

9. “Skyscratcher” instead of “skyscraper”

"Skyscratcher" instead of "skyscraper"

Flickr / Kevin Jarrett

Tall buildings that usually contain numerous offices and businesses.

10. “Vim and vinegar” instead of “vim and vigor”

"Vim and vinegar" instead of "vim and vigor"

Flickr / Mike Mozart

Demonstrating large amounts of vitality and energy.

11. “Take it for granite” instead of “take it for granted”

"Take it for granite" instead of "take it for granted"

Flickr / James St. John

The expectation that something or someone will always be avaialble to help out in any given situation.

12. “Heimlich remover” in place of “Heimlich manuever”

"Heimlich remover" in place of "Heimlich manuever"

Flickr / ilovebutter

A technique used to save the lives and remove obstructive objects from a person’s airway.

13. “Pre-Madonna” instead of “primadonna”

"Pre-Madonna" instead of "primadonna"

Flickr / Brad Cerenzia

The chief female singer in an opera or opera company.

14. “Stand at a tension” instead of “stand at attention”

"Stand at a tension" instead of "stand at attention"

Flickr / Chris Phutully

A military posture that requires a person to stand up straight.

15. “Out of bounce” instead of “out of bounds”

"Out of bounce" instead of "out of bounds"

Flickr / Sam Howzit

A place outside the realm of play or something that is off limits.

16. “Old-timer’s disease” in place of “Alzheimer’s disease”

"Old-timer's disease" in place of "Alzheimer's disease"

Flickr / Michael Havens

A disease that directly impacts one’s memory and other mental functions.

17. “Wet your appetite” instead of “whet your appetite”

"Wet your appetite" instead of "whet your appetite"

Flickr / Leonid Ll

To have a piqued interest in something.

18. “Hell in a handbag” instead of “hell in a handbasket”

"Hell in a handbag" instead of "hell in a handbasket"

Flickr / Patricia Harold

Used to reference an event or situation that is doomed to suffer an ill fate.

19. “Optical delusions” in place of “optical illusions”

"Optical delusions" in place of "optical illusions"

Flickr / Brood_wich

Visual images that are perceived in a variety of ways thanks to our mind and view of the object.

20. “Happy as a clown” instead of “happy as a clam”

"Happy as a clown" instead of "happy as a clam"

Flickr / Pierre (Rennes)

Incredibly happy and content. The phrase was first used in a memoir titled “The Harpe’s Head – A Legend of Kentucky.”

21. “junk-start” in place of “jumpstart”

"junk-start" in place of "jumpstart"

Flickr / Erik

To start (an engine or vehicle) using an external power source.

22. “Duck tape” instead of “Duct tape”

"Duck tape" instead of "Duct tape"

Flickr / Mike Mozart

A type of adhesive tape that is said to fix just about everything.

(via Quick and Dirty Tips and Document Cloud)

How many of these eggcorns have you been using in your everyday life? Let us know your favorites from this list, and feel free to share your own eggcorns in the comments.

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