Eggcorns and mondegreens

Mondegreens are misheard versions of phrases, sayings, lyrics, poetic phrases, or slogans. The term comes from the Scottish author Sylvia Write, who wrote a 1954 article in Harper’s Magazine in which she mentioned misinterpreting a Scottish ballad. The original line, “They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray and laid him on the green,” she misheard as, “They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray and Lady Mondegreen.”

Although the term mondegreen has been used for misheard phrases not from songs and poems, eggcorn, which originated in a 2003 Language Log post, has been advanced as a broader term for misheard words or phrases that retain their original meanings. So, for example, doggy-dog world is an eggcorn because it’s used in roughly the same way as the original phrase, dog-eat-dog world.

In the list below, the eggcorns are linked (to our posts covering the topics), and the original forms of the phrases are in parentheses:

Abject lesson (object lesson)

All and all (all in all)

Bad wrap (bad rap)

Beckon call (beck and call)

Butt naked (buck naked)

Day in age (day and age)

Deep-seeded (deep-seated)

Doggy-dog (dog-eat-dog)

Far be it for me (far be it from me)

For all intensive purposes (for all intents and purposes)

Hare’s breath (hair’s breadth)

Must of (must’ve)

Neck in neck (neck and neck)

On tenderhooks (on tenterhooks)

One in the same (one and the same)

Road to hoe (row to hoe)

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