brand-new » bran-new

Classification: English – nearly mainstream – final d/t-deletion

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Ben Zimmer (Word Routes, Visual Thesaurus, Dec. 5, 2008)

Brand-new dates to 1570, but the variant bran-new was already appearing less than a century later. See the Word Routes article for a full analysis, including this eggcornic “etymythology” given by a Wiktionary contributor:

The term ‘brand new’ or ‘bran new’ was when new items were packaged up with unwanted bran grain in the 18th Century to protect the object during transit. When the item was unpacked, the owner would often find traces of bran in the item. Hence the term.

| Comments Off link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2008/12/08 |

utmost » upmost

Variant(s):  up most, up-most

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • It will give comfort to would-be euro counterfeiters in the 11 nations adopting the new coins and notes from January 1 2002, and is likely to embarrass the European commission and the European central bank, both keen to be seen to be doing their upmost to guard against the risk of fraud. (Andrew Osborn in The Guardian, Aug 30, 2000)
  • The important thing was that both teams truly captured the Olympic spirit in fighting for supremacy for every second of the match, but displaying the upmost respect for each other after the final whistle. (Allon Sinai in The Jerusalem Post, Aug 24, 2008)
  • Looking ahead to the game Head Coach, Shaun Edwards, said, “We have the up most respect for our opponents Edinburgh and we will be taking a strong team up there on Saturday ready for a highly competitive game. […]” (, Aug 22, 2008)
  • The Sportsplex does the upmost best to offer programs that are requested by the community such as the Hockey School, Ladies Hockey School and Power Skating and so forth. (Clearwater Times (, Aug 18, 2008)
  • Our games are always changing and are all designed to provide the upmost of fun. (Stourbridge News, Aug 21, 2008)

Analyzed or reported by:

The substitution of “up” for the opaque “ut” in _utmost_ has been pointed out numerous times.

The Eggcorn Forum poster Russell analyses:

> [The constituent “ut”] is liable to reanalysis to something that more transparently expresses superlative meaning, such as up+most (‘uppermost’), which fits with the MORE IS UP-type metaphor. This may also involve anticipatory assimilation to the nasal in “most”.

A Google search shows very large numbers of hits, from both sides of the Atlantic (and Australia, too). All the above cites are taken from searches restricted to news outlets, and most are very recent, which justifies the “nearly mainstream” classification.

| Comments Off link | entered by Chris W. (admin), 2008/08/24 |

palm » pawn

Chiefly in:   pawn off (on)

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Audiences, too, may have recoiled when they watched the first episode [of ‘John from Cincinnati’], and thought, Hey, don’t try to pawn this off on me.” (New Yorker of 25 June 2007, p. 96)
  • “No matter how hard you try, attempting to pawn off your prejudicial thought patterns as anything remotely factual does not work.” (link)
  • “This idea to privatize Social Security is the biggest scam the govt. has ever tried to pawn off on us.” (link)

Philip Jensen sent me the New Yorker quotation (from Nancy Franklin) by e-mail on 22 June 2007; a discussion then ensued on the American Dialect Society mailing list. A few days earlier, on 19 June, the Grammarphobia site coped with a complaint from a reader about this very expression: “One of my pet peeves is hearing people say “pawn off” when they mean “palm off.” Why do they say that?”

The most recent OED (December 2005 draft revision) has no usage note on the relevant subentry for “pawn”. It gives early cites (1763, 1787) for “pawn upon” — the first cite for “palm off (on/upon)” is from 1832 — and then cites (mostly from elevated sources) through 2003. MWDEU says the expression “would appear to have originated by similarity of sound to palm in palm off… but it may in fact be a dialectal variant.”

It turns out that OED1 and OED2 had an “Erron.” label on this usage, but that label has now been removed, presumably in recognition of the fact that, as we say here on the ecdb, the usage is “nearly mainstream”. Nevertheless, Paul Brians treats it as a straightforward error. (And Bryan Garner doesn’t mention it at all.)

Obviously, “pawn off” still rubs some people the wrong way, but there are others (like me) who don’t even notice it as worthy of comment.

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer and Jesse Sheidlower for supplying most of the information above.]

| Comments Off link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2007/06/23 |

chute » shoot

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Elliott, smushed to the edge and with the lowest height, will be the next Idolette to follow little Paris down the shoot. Nerves did him in during Tuesday’s opener…” (link)
  • “Cardboard is to be placed on the floor under the garbage shoot, not down the shoot or in the trash cans. Sleeping in the study lounges and in the computer …” (link)
  • “As you come down the shoot (about 50m long), you’ll find yourself zipping a long at a fast pace and the only eddy is on the right about half way down with …” (link)

“Chute” ’sloping channel or slide to convey things downward (often for disposal)’ is a homophone of “shoot”, and since things often shoot along down a chute, “shoot” is a natural replacement for the otherwise unmotivated “chute” — so natural, indeed, that the New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd ed.) lists it as an alternative to “chute”. The third citation, from a U.K. rivers site, probably shows some influence of the verb “shoot” in “shoot the rapids”.

This one’s not in the standard lists of often-confused words.

| 2 comments | link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2006/05/05 |

sing-along » sing-a-long

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

In this eggcorn, the reanalysis is evident only in the way the word is punctuated. The original form, sing-along, is quite transparent, so I suspect that the reanalysis is not motivated by the sense of the word so much as by analogy with “V-a-N” constructions such as Rent-A-Wreck, rope-a-dope, and whack-a-mole.

I’ve labelled this one as “nearly mainstream,” because the reanalyzed form seems to be very common. As of this writing, the query “sing-a-long gets approximately a third as many hits on Google as the query “sing-along”, although it should be noted that, since Google treats hyphens and spaces as interchangeable, the hit counts will include things like “I run out of air if I have to sing a long note” and “Feel free to sing along.”

Another confounding factor here is an outfit called Sing-a-long-a, which puts on sing-along screenings of the film The Sound of Music (”the ultimate communal nun-based karaoke“). These events go under the official title Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music, but the second “-a” is often omitted by reviewers, as in this article by Beth Nissen at

| 2 comments | link | entered by Q. Pheevr, 2005/12/16 |