I had a lot of fun writing this doozy — a blog post that just might make the novel writing process a bit more fun.
Eggcorns … is that Microwavable?
I love words and the zany ways they can be interpreted, misinterpreted, misheard, misspoken, and slipped into a conversation without us even realizing it—as in eggcorns in the novel writing process.
Let’s nip something in the butt right now … or rather, nip it in the bud. Eggcorns, you see, aren’t a newfangled breakfast cereal. Eggcorns are an inadvertent misstatement of a word or phrase. These misspellings or mispronunciations are honest, plausible errors. We’re simply trying to articulate a familiar phrase, but miss the mark.
By the way, you can add milktoast to your eggcorn repertoire (that sounds like breakfast again, doesn’t it). Actually, milktoast is a misspelling of milquetoast (meaning skittish or timid).
Following are more examples of eggcorns. Have you ever read of a “daring-do” adventure? The author meant derring-do. Same for “old-timer’s disease,” which is actually Alzheimer’s disease. Or you may think you have a posable thumb—when you actually have an opposable thumb.
Who in the world came up with the word eggcorn, and what is the etymology? Well, linguists will point you to Language Log, the digital hang out for word nerds. In a now-famous (at least in the world of linguists) 2003 blog post, Chris Potts relayed that a woman had stated “egg corn” in lieu of acorn. To describe the phenomenon of misstating such words, Geoff Pullum suggested these slips be referred to as “egg corns,” which we now call eggcorns.
Using Eggcorns in the Novel Writing Process
So, if you want a character to sound authentically southern, or typically northern, or simply prone to slips of the tongue, why not incorporate a few eggcorns into the dialogue? Are we in agreeance?—ha ha!
Examples from some of my own writing:
“Yes, I’m going on a world-wind tour,” bragged the skinny drummer, trying to impress the petite brunette.
“You mean whirlwind tour, right?” replied the brunette with a tinge of snark, having no intention of canoodling on the tour bus.
“Why the khakis?” shouted Fred from the tractor. “We’re in a cornfield. Wear your overhauls, ya dummy!”
Fred means overalls, thought Kenneth, kicking himself for being such a siss-pants.
“That there’s a wild variety of flowers,” observed Thelma with a twinge of jealousy.
She means wide variety, thought the school teacher, forcing herself not to correct her new neighbor’s English.