Homonym confusion

More and more lately (or perhaps it’s confirmation bias) I’ve been seeing people mangling a number of homonyms online. It’s not just the usual suspects either (your/you’re, there/they’re/their), but things like the following:


The funny thing is that using the wrong one often ends up being unintentionally humorous; of course when you point that out to them they usually go “Huh?” Like “Baited breath”-so your mouth smells like earthworms? “Poured over his figures”-be careful with that ink well. “Wreckless driving”-ah so he is a very safe driver then?


Soory, I read this as “HoneyMoon Confusion” and was going to offer appropriate advice - but since you want homonyms - I got nothin.

“So I hit the breaks” …and the car fell apart?

I like the ones that sort of make sense (like ‘eggcorn’ itself), or ‘pouring over’. ‘Wreckless’ even has a bit of ironic flavor, but I don’t like it as much. ‘Breaks’ and ‘site’ don’t even pass mustard, since there’s no logic to them.
The Language Log calls these ‘eggcorns’ (from an alternate word for ‘acorn’ of course) in the vein of ‘mondegreen’.

They had a recent little bit on them:


See also this (linked from the LL somewhere in there) :

I still see “copywrite” when people mean copyright quite frequently, even on the SDMB.

Some people are loosing their grip on vocabulary.

That one’s not even a homonym. And I cringe every single time.

How about site/sight? Which also makes me cringe.

But it makes sense to say both you’re “seeing the sites” and “seeing the sights”.


I think mixing up homonyms are a quite common thing for native speakers of that language. I’ve very rarely seen it with writers who have English as their second language (they/we make all other sorts of mistakes–but rarely this). Maybe it has something to do with learning a language through speaking and hearing it, as opposed to learning it mainly through reading and writing?

I’ve often seen “poured over”. Don’t think I’ve ever seen it put correctly, actually.

NOOOO! “Just desserts” is rising in usage? Vocal chords??? :eek:

I’ve been seeing “reign him in” all over the place lately. Isn’t it supposed to be “rein him in,” like a horse rein?

Here, here!


There, there!

Yep. The blog mentions “free rein” which is also correct, but one can see the not-complete-backwardness of “free reign”.

I’ve noticed the same thing for speakers of French. I’d say the single most common mistake I’ve noticed for first-language speakers of French is confusing the participle endings (-é-e-s) and infinitive endings (-er) for regular verbs: **il ne faut pas fumé; on me l’a raconter, for example. Second language speakers very rarely make this mistake, presumably because our first exposure to these forms was by conjugating them, so we pick them out by how they fit into the sentence, not by sound. (By contrast, we’re forever making mistakes with gender, which first-language francophones do, but very rarely and usually for certain confusing nouns.)

“Just deserts” has a lot of things stacked against it:

  1. not only is it a homonym, it’s spelled like the ‘wrong’ one of a pair of homonyms, so the correct spelling “looks wrong” to a lot of people;
  2. the word “deserts” is found only in that expression;
  3. “just desserts” seems to mean something metaphorically, since it’s what you get “in the end”;
  4. lots of restaurants and such are called “Just Desserts” as a pun.

Unfortunately, we may see the demise of “just deserts” in our lifetime.

I agree, “free reign” could make logical sense, so I can see where someone might use it that way.

Heh. I remember flying through my first year of French, acing every exam oral and written (the spelling and grammar of French being easy and even logical after taking 3+ years of Classical Latin). Then suddenly in my second year I started making exactly these types of errors. I couldn’t account for it, but my teacher did: “You’re beginning to think in French”. And he was right!

(Too bad I only ever took three years of French, I do retain some command of the language, especially dealing with written French, but never quite got all the way to fluent.)

I see a lot of people using “discrete” for “discreet”, lately

Cite? :wink:

Here are some eggcorns, rather than pure homonyms.

Sourcasm for sarcasm.
Laxadaisical for lackadaisical.
Wimpsical for whimsical.