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Is there a name for the deliberate use of incorrect grammar?

I'm thinking of the phrase "As sure as eggs is eggs", which I heard used by a well-educated speaker recently. Of course, they were aware that grammatically the plural eggs requires the verb form are, but I wondered whether there is a name for the intentional use of so-called 'bad grammar'. Another example is the deliberate use of "ain't" by British English speakers.

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    They are figures of speech - perhaps forms of irony. I am doubtful, however, if you will find a named category specific to what you require. But take a look at "mimesis" - from "mimicry". I'm not going to pay for the repair - because it wasn't me wot done it" - sort of mimics a suspected criminal speaking to the police, or someone in authority.
    – WS2
    Sep 3 at 9:22
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    Dialog for characters can be intentionally "ungrammatical" aiming for realistic speech, trying to reproduce what you might hear spoken. (I get a kick out of altered spellings like "sez" that do nothing.)
    – DjinTonic
    Sep 3 at 10:42
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    We can be deliberately ungrammatical for effect— to be folksy, humorous, emphatic, etc. as in your example when a person who knows better (and who knows you know) uses ain't. This extends to effects such as sensational spelling and exaggerated pronunciation like Tony the Tigers cereal catchphrase They’re grrrrrreat! and Our computer is so sloooow.
    – DjinTonic
    Sep 3 at 10:43
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    We might ungrammatical for convenience, e.g. you "paint yourself in a grammatical corner" while speaking and get out of it with something ungrammatical or perhaps borderline grammatical, such as an extended "group genitive" like "Listen to this! The funny old man I told you about yesterday when we were having coffee 's son is none other than...." (said perhaps with a smile or some eye-rolling and hand gestures as a "sorry, I know, but I'm not going to start over").
    – DjinTonic
    Sep 3 at 10:43
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    Ain't isn't bad grammar unless used in a place where the words it abbreviates don't fit.
    – nnnnnn
    Sep 3 at 10:43
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As pointed out in @Edwin's comment referring to this earlier Answer, the relevant term here is...

Enallage
...related to solecism (a deviation from conventional word order). Enallage, however, is usually regarded as a deliberate stylistic device, whereas a solecism is commonly treated as an error of usage.


A few famous examples from advertising / TV / movies...

Got milk?
Eat fresh
We was robbed
Mistah Kurtz—he dead
Thunderbirds are go

"All of these stick in our minds because they’re just wrong—wrong enough to be right" (Mark Forsyth, Rhetorical Reasons That Slogans Stick, The New York Times, November 13, 2014)

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    I think you have found the answer here. One of the definitions in the link you included was "enallage: a slight deliberate grammatical mistake that makes a sentence stand out." I think that is a great description of what I was asking.
    – kandyman
    Sep 5 at 11:39
  • Well, I didn't find it! As acknowledged in the first line of my answer, @Edwin found it for me! But coming back to this now, it seems I got my links messed up in the Answer, so I suppose I'd better sign off this comment and do some further investigation... Sep 5 at 12:04
  • Some of them are deliberately chosen to sound like a particular vernacular. "Mistah Kurtz—he dead" sounds like southern plantation slave dialect, "We was robbed" sounds Brooklynese.
    – Barmar
    Sep 6 at 19:41
  • @Barmar: I just copied that one verbatim, but personally I think of it as We wuz robbed - the familiar lament of Sarf London football supporters of the losing team. While trying to establish some kind of "origin" for the usage just now, I came across the new-to-me but truly "immortal words" They should of stood in bed (said of some baseball player who got off his sickbed to play, but performed badly). Sometimes the "non-standard grammar" is only there to be "striking / quirky / amusing". Sep 7 at 12:09
  • "We wuz" seems to be common to several lower-class vernaculars in both America and the UK.
    – Barmar
    Sep 7 at 13:26
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"Solecism" is the closest thing that comes to mind. And "Malapropism" is the mistaken use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound.

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    But as I understand it they are both errors as opposed to deliberate strategies for effect - which is what the OP seemed to be asking.
    – WS2
    Sep 3 at 9:24
  • Hello, Mahny. These terms don't fit exactly (the deliberate use) and have been given more appropriately as answers elsewhere on ELU. Sep 3 at 10:37
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    There is a large specialized vocabulary for figures of speech. A good repository and explanation of them is at Silva Rhetoricae which is fun to explore. @EdwinAshworth, there is no distinguishing netween deliberate and unconscious in these historical terms. It's a solecism whether you meant it or not.
    – Mitch
    Sep 3 at 13:35
  • An alternate term,which is frequently suggested here on ELU is catachresis
    – Mitch
    Sep 3 at 13:40
  • @Mitch Yes, but that hypernymic answer has appeared before. As has the correct, precisionist answer: enallage. Sep 3 at 13:42

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