Language The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language  

Logan Rapp
5.1k votes 477 voters 16.3k views 54 items

List Rules Upvote the most confusing mispronounced and misspelled words and phrases in the English language.

What's an eggcorn and why would an eggcorn database or eggcorn list exist at all? Well, the English language is tricky and full of words and phrases that are easily mispronounced or misspelled. Heck, just about any language is tricky and full of nuance. There's a great video of Stephen Fry talking about language being an evolving thing, and that more pedantic folks shouldn't be so hard up to correct people. Many agree, but this list of eggcorns is something fun to think about!

Okay, so what is an eggcorn? I's a phrase or a word that, through misspelling, mispronunciation, or a simple misunderstanding of its meaning, has been changed to an incorrect phrase. In fact, the word eggcorn is itself an eggcorn: the linguist who coined the term chose that word after speaking with someone who said "eggcorn" instead of "acorn." 

So, we thought it'd be fun for linguaphiles to look at and rank the trickiest and most confusing eggcorns that sometimes trip up even the most avid grammar and language lovers. Some of these mistakes are just straight up wrong and get the meaning mixed up. Some are honest mistakes that most people rarely challenge. Some, interestingly, are phrases that, when you really think about it, still hold the spirit of the original meaning. '

The point is, this is all in good fun. Haters to the left! Let's enjoy the linguistic mistakes, poetry, and nightmares of eggcorns together.

1
140 62
Chomp at the Bit is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Chomp at the Bit Correct term: "champ at the bit." This is what a horse does when they have a bit in their mouth.

2
110 65
Bold-Faced Lie is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Bold-Faced Lie Correct term: "bald-faced lie."  People argue about this, as either way is metaphorical.

3
124 84
All Intensive Purposes is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
All Intensive Purposes Correct term: "all intents and purposes," meaning "encompassing all desires and objectives."

4
100 66
Towing the Line is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Towing the Line Correct term: "toeing the line," meaning you're stepping in line to conform to whatever outside influence you're dealing with.

5
73 48
Baited Breath is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Baited Breath Correct term: "bated breath," meaning breath that is bated "in great suspense."

6
77 54
Flush Out is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Flush Out Correct term: "flesh out," in the context of "building out from a small idea." (Some people use "flush out," but that should be in the context of "getting something out of a place.") ...

7
102 79
Expresso is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Expresso Correct term: "espresso." This is just a simple pronunciation and spelling error.

8
67 51
Chock It Up is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Chock It Up Correct term: "chalk it up," from old-timey England, where chalk was used to record debts on a board. (The meaning, obviously, has changed immensely.)

9
25 8
Jerry-Rigged is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Jerry-Rigged Correct term: "jury-rigged," which describes creating or repairing a device using makeshift materials.

10
41 26
Wet Your Appetite is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
chantellebelle added Wet Your Appetite Correct term: "whet your appetite," meaning to stimulate your appetite

11
66 54
Rebel Rouser is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Rebel Rouser Correct term: "rabble rouser," someone who, y'know, rouses a rabble. (Just remember: every time there's a mob in South Park, they always yell "rabble rabble rabble!")

12
84 74
Duck Tape is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Duck Tape Correct term: "duct tape." Duck Tape is a brand of this type of tape.

13
73 63
On the Lamb is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
On the Lamb Correct term: "on the lam." When you're going off the grid and escaping the Man.

14
49 44
Coming Down the Pipe is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Coming Down the Pipe Correct term: "coming down the pike," short for turnpike, another word for "highway."

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15
54 52
Ex-Patriot is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Ex-Patriot Correct term: "expatriate," meaning someone who is living outside of their home country. (They could be an ex-patriot, but that's rarely (if ever) what we mean.)

16
60 60
Give Free Range is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Give Free Range Correct term: "give free rein," allowing someone to do what they want. "Range" still implies boundaries.

17
53 53
Ice Tea is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Ice Tea Correct term: "iced tea," which is to say, tea that has been chilled by ice. ("Ice tea" means "completely frozen tea.")

18
79 85
Escape Goat is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Escape Goat Correct term: "scapegoat," meaning a person who's been intentionally blamed for misdeeds they did not commit. (Comes from the Bible, wherein a Jewish priest had absolved his people of their sins by placing them ...

19
62 67
Pre-Madonna is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Pre-Madonna Correct term: "prima donna," Italian for first lady. (In American culture, it also means someone with an inflated view of their talent.)

20
49 52
Last Rights is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Last Rights Correct term: "last rites," the final rituals given to a person before they die, so that they may go to Heaven.

21
45 48
Content With is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Content With Correct term: "contend with" meaning you have to deal with its issues. (To be "content with" implies you are happy.)

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22
56 67
Take It for Granite is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Take It for Granite Correct term: "taken/take it for granted." Who wants to take granite?

23
40 46
Pass Mustard is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Pass Mustard Correct term: "pass muster," the ability to be satisfactory with an outside entity.

24
46 54
Laughing Stalk is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Laughing Stalk Correct term: "laughing stock." "Stocks" were places of punishment and this phrase implies punishment via ridicule.

25
45 53
Mist of Things is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Mist of Things Correct term: "midst of things," as in you are "in the middle of it. (Though the "mist of things" works from an ethereal quality.)

26
37 43
Collaborating Evidence is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Collaborating Evidence Correct term: "corroborating evidence," evidence that gives support to a statement or theory. ( Evidence doesn't make collaborative decisions.)

27
39 46
All for Not is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
All for Not Correct term: "all for naught," meaning what you're doing would be for nothing.

28
32 41
A Hair's Breath is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
A Hair's Breath Correct term: "a hair's breadth," as hair is very thin, so it's a thin distance between one thing and another.

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29
31 40
Daring-Do is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Daring-Do Correct term: "derring-do," to suggest action in a heroic context. ("Daring-do" doesn't often get corrected as it still fits, in a way.)

30
38 50
Stream of Conscience is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Stream of Conscience Correct term: "stream of consciousness."  A work that has little structure and follows the flow of the writer's mind.

31
0 2
fly in the anointment is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Tim Ragland added fly in the anointment

32
29 47
Boggled Down is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Boggled Down Correct term: "bogged down. A bog is a mire that's difficult to walk through.

33
19 33
A Shot Over the Bough is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
A Shot Over the Bough Correct term: "a shot over the bow," meaning the front of a ship. Ships would shoot across each others bows to indicate they were serious.

34
32 55
Old-Timer's Disease is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Old-Timer's Disease Correct term: "Alzheimer's disease." ( Though the disease does affect the elderly.)

35
35 60
Biting My Time is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Biting My Time Correct term: "biding my time," meaning you're preparing for just the right moment.

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36
2 9
Doggy-dog World is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Cajun Witch added Doggy-dog World Correct term:  "dog eat dog world," the world is out to get you, and it's every man for himself.

37
25 48
Rot-Iron Fences is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Rot-Iron Fences Correct term: "wrought-iron fences." Why would anyone want iron with rot in it?

38
25 49
Overhauls is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Overhauls Correct term "overalls." "Overhauls" are what you do when you have to change something from the ground up.

39
31 59
Out of Bounce is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Out of Bounce Correct term: "out of bounds." Just a simple pronunciation error.

40
22 45
A Pack with the Devil is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
A Pack with the Devil Correct term: "a pact with the devil," making an agreement with him, whether metaphorically or, in some stories, at the crossroads, literally. 

41
28 57
Valentime's Day is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Valentime's Day Correct term: " Valentine's Day," meaning the day of St. Valentine.

42
20 45
Scandally Clad is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Scandally Clad Correct term: "scantily clad," meaning wearing a scant amount of clothing. ( Though the original works, because it tends to be scandalous if someone is clad in this way.)

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43
25 54
Old Wise Tale is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Old Wise Tale Correct term: "old wives' tale," the passing down stories of stories from older women to children and grandchildren who accept them as true, even when they are ridiculous.

44
22 49
Takes Two to Tangle is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Takes Two to Tangle Correct term: "takes two to tango," a kind of dance requiring two people.

45
21 49
Petal to the Metal is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Petal to the Metal Correct term: "pedal to the metal," a metaphor for slamming your foot down on the gas pedal so far it touches the metal beneath the floor.

46
26 58
Optical Delusions is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Optical Delusions Correct term: "optical illusions." "Delusion" indicates something the mind does to itself. "Illusion" is something someone else has done.

47
23 53
Cease and Decease is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Cease and Decease Correct term: "cease and desist." A legal term meaning to stop what you're doing, and not do it again.

48
22 52
Above Approach is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Above Approach Correct term: "above reproach," with the second word meaning "to rebuke or express disapproval."

49
19 49
Mating Name is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Mating Name Correct term: "maiden name," the surname a woman had before she was married and had changed it.

50
16 45
Marsh Pit is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Trickiest Eggcorns in the English Language
Marsh Pit Correct term: "mosh pit," at punk, hardcore, or metal concerts, this is where people get wild. ( Some think that the incorrect way of saying it came out of differences in accents.)