Eggcorns are everywhere

10 May, 2011

I know, I know, I have become a grumpy old man banging on about declining standards in the print (and all other) media.  The Irish Times is a particular bugbear, on the basis that we are (we were?) entitled to expect reasonable grammar, punctuation and editing standards from the so-called Paper of Record.

My previous post referred to an article published recently in the Irish Times which was critical of celebrity economists.  That article had this howler:

On a faithful [sic] night in September 2008, the then minister for finance urgently needed advice. Astonishingly, he knocked on David McWilliams’s door….

What are editors/sub-editors for? 

 Coincidentally, I had recently been reading about this particular solecism, which has been bestowed with the useful name “eggcorn”.  Wikipedia tells us that, in linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as “old-timers’ disease” for “Alzheimer’s disease”.

There is even an online database of such eggcorns here (I like damp squidthrows of passion).  Enjoy.

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