Eggcorns, Mondegreens and Charactonyms

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I like discovering linguistic terms for things that I thought were too trivial to be given an official name.

Eggcorns

An Eggcorn is a special case of a malapropism: a mistaken phrase that retains some of the original meaning. For example, where a malapropism might be the nonsensical, “He is the very pineapple [pinnacle] of politeness“, an eggcorn might be, “Chickens coming home to roast“.

The term derives from a woman who thought acorns were egg corns.

Mondegreens

A Mondegreen is a mis-construal of a phrase in a song, poem or lyric. The most famous of these is the Jimi Hendrix line, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky“, which is often misheard as, “Excuse me while I kiss this guy“. However, some argue that this particular example is not really a mishearing, as Jimi may have purposefully sung the line to be interpreted both ways.

The Kiss This Guy database has an excellent collection of mondegreens, including the awesome, “Might as well face it, you’re a d**k with a glove” – Addicted to Love, by Robert Palmer.

The term derives from a misheard line in a poem, that was originally, “And laid him on the green“.

(Thanks to Francesco Cetraro for pointing me to the video above, which has some wonderful mondegreens, including “Steven Seagal”, which is always funny, in any context.)

Charactonyms / Aptronyms

An Aptronym is a person’s name that suits them, such as the American football player Chuck Long. Similarly, a

Charactonym is the name of a fictional character that describes their personality, such as Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist, or many of the adult character names from Harry Potter.

Dan Zambonini

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Dan Zambonini is a partner at Content Strategist agency Contentini, and is obsessed with design, technology, and their influence on our culture. He wrote A Practical Guide to Web App Success, the leading web application book. You can usually find him twittering on about something on Twitter at @zambonini. Apart from his website, you can also find his other projects at Penolo: Twitter Sketch & Share, Amorphous Blog, Zombie Virus Fund, Lame But Cool, Japanese Gore Movies, The Content Strategist Blog, A Tramp Abroad, Fan Ranked: Most Popular Products, Stereotype and many more.

One Comment

  1. On charactonyms / aptronyms, New Scientist used to regularly publish examples of nominative determinism – the theory that people are led to jobs which resemble their names.

    The first ever example was an academic paper on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology written by J.W. Splatt and D. Weedon.

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