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The misuse of certain phrases in English is something that really gets my goat. Some examples:

  • baited breath instead of bated breath
  • here here instead of hear hear
  • step foot instead of set foot
  • it’s not rocket surgery instead of it’s not rocket science/brain surgery
  • right of passage instead of rite of passage
  • for all intensive purposes instead of for all intents and purposes
  • no holes bared or no holes barred instead of no holds barred
  • Old-timer’s disease instead of Alzheimer’s disease
  • nip it in the butt instead of nip it in the bud

Personally I think it is because people don’t read anymore so they don’t see the spelling, and also (despite Google being at everyone’s fingertips), people don’t know the origin of the term so misuse it.

These things are known as eggcorns.

Find a list here.

The strange thing is, I know that language is organic and that the language we speak today is a corrupted form of much older and more formal language. I know that people from previous era and generations must have hated English evolving into the form we speak today, even the correct form. That still does not prevent me being annoyed that people are misusing idioms because they do not read sufficiently and have not been taught the reasoning behind them.

I have thought about it but I am not sure. Would you say that eggcorns are another form of Mondegreen?

Here are two beautiful eggcorns from The Daily Mail


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

9 thoughts

  1. The mistake that annoys me is the use of ‘draws’ instead of ‘drawers’, always plural as in ‘the unit has four draws’.

    I have seen this so often that I checked it in case there was some usage that I was unaware of!

  2. Unfortunately, it happens in the big corporations too, and they really should know better. On the BBC News earlier this week in a piece about the Health Service, and maternity in particular, there was a reference on screen to “fetal”, instead of “foetal”. I fear for the future.

  3. It points out the difference between those for whom English is a written language, and the plebeian mass who merely (mis)speak it.
    ‘Gaffely, gaffely, gaffely, goneword,’ from The Charge of the Light Brigade means that some lazy lout has never read it himself. 🙁 😯

  4. It really gets my goat too!

    One is a French/English phrase:

    On route instead of en route

    Peak my interest instead of pique my interest.

    There are probably others, but most of the phrases you’ve written have driven me mad at some stage!
    Like you, I understand language is organic, but it really does get my goat!

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