Eggcorns and Mondegreens

I have long been a fan of quirky expressions, puns, and the like. I remember SNL performer Rich Hall‘s invention of Sniglets, words that don’t appear in the dictionary but should. Here are two examples (here is a list):

Icision (ih sih’ zhun) – n. Delicate operation performed on Neapolitan-flavored ice cream in which one entire flavor is precisely and systematically removed.

Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

Another class of words are variously called a malapropism or an eggcorn. Malaproprism (mal a propos or inappropriate) is not usually that funny (except perhaps those from Archie Bunker):

“A woman doctor is only good for women’s problems…like your groinocology.” (i.e. Gynaecology)

Eggcorns are more like puns, which are rarely thigh-slappers:

  • chickens come home to roast see roost » roast

Mondegreens, on the other hand, are funny misreadings of a phrase. The most famous is “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear” (Gladly the cross I’d bear), according to Jon Carroll, the mondegreen collector. I like the origin of the term, from Percy’s Reliques,

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual words are “and laid him on the green.”

More later on the origins of curious phrases like “dead ringer.” Did it originate with the Victorian phenomenon of safety coffins which had a bell so a person inadvertently buried alive could ring it and be saved ?


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