I've heard these formulations called "eggcorns", which is a play on acorns.
They're cliches or idioms that have been misinterpreted, but still sort of
make sense. You can read more about them in the Eggcorn Database, here:
Goodl luck tomorrow, Roger! Hope your other contacts were more help than we
On 11/2/06, Russ Hunt <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Like Betsy, and Tracy, I was a little surprised to find a request for
> cliches yielding student howlers . . . but cliches do generate that
> kind of thing disproportionately: they're where metaphors go to die,
> Scott Adams (Dilbert) has a newsletter which regularly reports the
> kind of amazing (or amusing) misuse of cliches and formulas people are
> talking about here -- the results of not considering what the dead
> metaphor actually meant before it gave up the ghost. In last May's
> issue, for instance
> he claimed his readers had actually heard all of these (among others):
> "…the cream of the corn".
> "…too many cooks in the broth."
> "Looks like I've spent the day chasing a wild herring! "
> "We are the glue that keeps things moving. "
> "Fits like a charm! Wait..fits like a shoe? "
> "That guy is running around like a chicken with his legs cut off."
> "It just like stealing teeth from a baby."
> "It's like the rooster guarding the hen house."
> "That guy doesn't have a spine to stand on."
> "You're barking up a dead tree."
> "That's my sixth cents, for what it's worth."
> "That's not his cup of cake."
> He doesn't, though, usually include the simpler ones like "tow the
> line" (for "toe the line") and "baited breath" (for "bated breath" --
> were you baiting us with that one, Roger, or did you use the wrong
> word unintentionally?)
> My nomination for the current most-overused cliche is the one that I
> think ten percent of CBC news items currently ends with: something
> won't happen "any time soon." Listen for it.
> -- Russ
> Russell Hunt
> Department of English
> St. Thomas University
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