How many times have you stumbled across the words “chester drawers” in a listing on eBay? Or heard someone, horrifyingly, say they eat “cold slaw”?
The creative endeavor of Chester is my pet hate; it makes me cringe every time and I have to restrain myself from correcting the speaker/writer with an impassioned speech on paying attention to what they’re saying and thinking about the fact that ‘chester drawers’ does not make any sense and can’t possibly mean what they think it means and paying attention to the red squiggly line that tells them it’s incorrect and…
Then I discovered something, a saving grace, if you will. These ‘mistakes’ have a name: eggcorns. Coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum, 2003, the term used used to refer to a lady who laboured under the impression that ‘acorn’ was in fact, you’ve guessed it, ‘eggcorn’. Identifying an example of this linguistic phenomena is harder than it may appear though, one must also distinguish between neologisms, malapropisms and puns.
Neologism: a new coinage. Recent neologisms include:
Crowdsourcing: getting strangers to fund an activity, often via a fundraising page.
Malapropism: an error in which part of a word or phrase is substituted with another creating a nonsensical utterance. For example:
“Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons”
-Much Ado About Nothing
Pun: a deliberate substitution of a word or phrase with another for comedic effect:
“Tomorrow…. you shall find me a grave man”
-Romeo and Juliet
An eggcorn, therefore, is a substitution which is phonetically similar to the original, can be understood with the same meaning and the speaker/writer is often unaware there has been an error.
So, what is in a name? For me, apparently quite a lot. Now, Chester presents a real-time example of an intriguing phenomena and no longer makes me shudder… well, not as much, anyway.