On eggcorns and mondegreens: how mishearing words drives language evolution.
The Queen’s finest export.
In recent years the media enjoyed regaling us with the search for the Higgs boson, but I’m sure many people wondered what was so special about Mr Higg’s boson that we should all be so interested in him finding it again, let alone curious about how he lost it in the first place. Postulate a new thesis or make a new discovery and you’re liable to have your name enter the vernacular. Found a company associated with a new invention, and the name may even become standard for the innovation. Yet at what point does it all stop being yours? We all learn about Newton’s laws of gravitation in the classroom, whilst some go on to read up on Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Archimedes’ buoyancy principle, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion – it all seems so predictable, until it comes unstuck with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Not the laws of physics, the laws of English.
Short aside. Teaching English in Germany, I often hear the mistake in comparative forms where…