“Eggcorns” and Homophones
Eggcorns? What on earth would they be? Generally this term is applied when people spell a word as they hear it, which may be quite different from the actual spelling. For example, if you weren’t familiar with the word ‘acorns’ you might think people were talking about “eggcorns” and write it that way.
Some commonly seen ‘eggcorns’:
I know what I’m doing now – I’ve got it down packed.
(Should be: I know what I’m doing now – I’ve got it down pat.)
I don’t think that will pass mustard.
(Should be: I don’t think that will pass muster.)
To all intensive purposes…
(Should be: To all intents and purposes…)
Just a taste to wet your appetite.
(Should be: Just a taste to whet your appetite.)
That’s a mute point.
(Should be: That’s a moot point.)
Many “eggcorns” do seem to make sense – unless you know and understand the real meaning of the word!
What about homophones? Are eggcorns homophones?
Not all eggcorns are homophones (though some are – wet/whet, for example).
Similarly some homophones could be eggcorns – if they’re being used incorrectly – but most are not.
A homophone is any word that sounds the same as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning.
One example that springs to mind, simply because I’ve seen it several times recently, is reign/rein:
I’ve read only too often: We need to reign in our spending.
Reign is what monarchs do. The correct word, of course, is rein, so: We need to rein in our spending.
(Think of reining in a horse to stop it galloping away out of control!)
vane (weather vane)/vein (e.g. vein in your leg)/vain (thinking a lot of oneself);
lead (metal)/led (past tense of ‘to lead’);
rain (wet weather)/rein (used on a horse)/reign (to rule over)
tea (drink)/tee (support for a golf ball)
muscle (e.g. triceps)/mussel (shellfish)
piece (part of)/peace (calm or absence of war)
bear (e.g. grizzly)/bare (naked)
done (finished)/dun (dull coloured)
size (how small or large something is)/ sighs (deep breaths denoting sadness or resignation)
shore (coastline)/ sure (certain)
Favourite homophones of your own? The potential list is endless – feel free to add your own examples….