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 squid, throws of passion). Enjoy.