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What is an eggcorn?
10 everyday sayings you might be getting wrong

Posted on May 31, 2023

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What is an eggcorn?

An eggcorn is a mispronounced or misspelled word or phrase. This usually happens because the original phrase has been misheard. The term ​‘​eggcorn’ is actually an eggcorn itself! (It is a mispronunciation of ‘acorn’.)


Below are ten of my favourite eggcorns.

1.‘Another thing coming’ or ‘another think coming’?

Have you ever said, ‘You’ve got another thing coming’? If so, you aren’t the only one!

While ‘another thing’ seems to make sense, the original and more common phrase is ‘another think.’ For example, ‘If Jimmy thought he was getting a third scoop of ice cream, he had another think coming.’


2. ‘I could care less’ or ‘I couldn’t care less’?

When people say, ‘I could care less,’ they’re saying that they do care a bit, but it’s possible for them to care even less. Which is not always what they really mean! The correct phrase is ‘I couldn’t care less,’ which means that they don’t care at all.


3. ‘Could of’ or ‘could’ve’?

‘Could of’ is a mishearing of ‘could’ve,’ which is the contracted form of could have. Always use ‘have,’ not ‘of.’ This also applies to ‘should have’ and ‘would have.’

4. ‘Doggy dog world’ or ‘dog-eat-dog world’?

‘Doggy dog world’ is a mishearing of ‘Dog-eat-dog world,’ which means a highly competitive environment.

5. ‘Escape goat’ or ‘scapegoat’?

While ‘escape goat’ conjures up images of an escaped animal at the zoo, it is a mishearing of ‘scapegoat,’ which refers to a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings of others.

6. ‘Nip it in the butt’ or ‘nip it in the bud’?

‘Nip it in the butt’ is a mishearing of ‘nip it in the bud,’ which means to put a quick stop to a problem or situation before it gets out of hand. A flower that is ‘nipped in the bud’ won’t grow.

7. ‘Hunger pains’ or ‘hunger pangs’?

While ‘hunger pains’ makes some sense because it is likely you’ll experience pain when you’re hungry, the correct phrase is ‘hunger pangs.’

8. ‘On tender hooks’ or ‘on tenterhooks’?

While ‘on tender hooks’ is commonly used, it is a mishearing of ‘on tenterhooks,’ which means nervously waiting for something to happen.

There’s nothing ‘tender’ about tenterhooks! They are sharp hooks used to attach fabric to a tenter (frame). The fabric is stretched over the frame to prevent shrinkage when drying.


9. ‘For all intensive purposes’ or ‘for all intents and purposes’?

‘For all intensive purposes’ is a mishearing of ‘for all intents and purposes,’ which means ‘virtually’ or ‘in all but name,’ so we use it when one thing has the same effect (or result) as something else.

10. ‘Biting your time’ or ‘biding your time’?

‘Biting your time’ conjures up an image of someone biting a clock (or watch), but you’re ‘biding your time’ if you’re waiting patiently for the opportune moment.

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