One great, but also quite frustrating, part of the English language is how often it changes and adapts. We see this often in what we call mondegreens, eggcorns, and malapropisms.
A mondegreen is a misheard phrase or lyric. E.g., “Reverend Blue Jeans” instead of Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” or “Hold me closer, Tony Danza” instead of “Hold me closer, tiny dancer,” from Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”
An eggcorn is a misheard phrase that still maintains its original, intended meaning. E.g., Doggy-dog world instead of dog-eat-dog world.
A malapropism is a substitution of a similar sounding word that creates a nonsensical meaning. E.g., “He preceded through the intersection,” instead of proceeded.
Here are some other common misheard and misused words and phrases:
This is one that isn’t very well known and chances are you, like me, were using the “incorrect” version all these years. Many people use hone in when they should be using home in.
However, hone in isn’t just incorrect; it actually means something totally different. While the definition of home in is to direct your focus toward a target (i.e, a missile homes in on a target), the definition of hone is to sharpen (i.e, she hones her skills).
Even though this version is technically incorrect, Merriam-Webster has defined it as an adaptation of home in.
For All Intensive Purposes
This is one of the most popular eggcorns. The correct phrase, for all intents and purposes, means “essentially/virtually.” For all intensive purposes, basically means “for all highly concentrated purposes.”
I Could Care Less
I’ve always found this one funny because people usually say it so emphatically — “I could care less what you think!”
Well, this one doesn’t create the intended reaction, mainly because it says the opposite of what you’re trying to communicate. You are, presumably, attempting to say that you don’t care at all about what the other person thinks, but what you are saying is that you care at least a little bit. If you said, I couldn’t care less, that means that you don’t care so much that you couldn’t possibly care any less.
Could Of/Should Of
This is a prime example of an eggcorn. Could of, should of, and would of are the result of people mishearing could have, should have, and would have.
Old Timers’ Disease
I used this eggcorn when I was little, mainly because I thought it was understood that only older people receive a diagnosis of what I knew as Old Timers’ Disease. I came to understand that it was not Old Timers’ Disease; rather Alzheimer’s is a disease that, yes, affects older people, but can also affect someone as young as 30.
I’ll be totally honest about this one — I had no clue until quite recently that this wasn’t correct. Technically, the correct version of this phrase is just deserts. A desert isn’t just a hot, sandy destination; a desert also means something deserved. Essentially, hoping someone gets his just deserts, means hoping that someone gets what he deserves.
While irregardless first caused controversy as early as 1927, I never heard it until I moved to Florida. The Miami New Times even wrote an article defending its use and citing a Merriam-Webster editor who confirmed that it is a real word, albeit a nonstandard version of regardless. Grammarly recently posted an in-depth evaluation of irregardless, exploring at why it is problematic and its gradual acceptance.
So is it a real word? Yes. But as Merriam-Webster cautions, “it is still a long way from general acceptance.”
This is another word I first heard in Florida. And while supposably is a word, it doesn’t mean quite the same thing as supposedly.
Supposably means something that is conceivable or credible, while supposedly means something assumed to be true (often used if the speaker doubts the truth).
As with for all intensive purposes, we can blame this one on sound. The correct word, segue, simply doesn’t sound the way it looks, but be warned: segue and segway are not the same thing. A segue is transitioning from one topic to another, while a segway is a two-wheeled form of transportation many tourists use to get around the nation’s capital.
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