I've never seen "Add-in salt to injury" but I know "Add insult to injury" exists. I had a grammar exercise that asked for the most suitable idiom or proverb for expressing:

To make something bad become worse

So I wrote "Add insult to injury". But the scheme says the correct answer is "Add-in salt to injury". So, which one is correct?

I've googled for "Add-in salt to injury" but the only result was the "add insult" version.

  • 12
    The usual idiom is "rub salt into a wound".
    – Mick
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 22:57
  • 5
    You should cite where you found this exercise, if nothing else, users would learn to avoid using it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 23:12
  • @Mari-LouA This has been circulating for a while in the world of IELTS; see this search. Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


The test's answer “add-in salt to injury” is a mishearing and combination of two idioms: “add insult to injury,” (to mock, ridicule, or worsen something that is already bad) and “rub salt in a wound” (to worsen physical or emotional pain.)

The misheard phrase, and its variants:

add salt to injury
adding salt to injury

is known as an eggcorn, which has replaced the older term mondegreen.

Although the term mondegreen has been used for misheard phrases not from songs and poems, eggcorn, which originated in a 2003 Language Log post, has been advanced as a broader term for misheard words or phrases that retain their original meanings. So, for example, doggy-dog world is an eggcorn because it’s used in roughly the same way as the original phrase, dog-eat-dog world. Grammarist

In actual fact, the eggcorn has found its way in Google Books, 23 results for “add salt to injury”, and 33 results for “adding salt to injury” While the original and correct idiom, “add insult to injury”, has over 47,000 hits

Add(-in) salt” sounds very similar to “add insult”, while “injury” is a synonym of “wound”, so it's not surprising people have mixed the two idioms together.

  • What about malaprop?
    – false
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 0:36
  • 1
    @false As I understand it, a malapropism describes the word or phrase that "sounds" like the original but in reality makes no sense (i.e. nonsensical), whereas "add(ing) salt to injury" as a metaphor does make some sense.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 0:40
  • 1
    From what I understand, a Mondegreen and egg-corn refer to two slightly different overlapping concepts. A Mondegreen is a mishearing/misinterpretation due to similar sounds resulting in a new meaning. Whereas an "eggcorn" is a similar sounding term that has a connection to the correct meaning. Both terms are examples of the same phenomenon. In this case, "add-in salt to injury" would be an eggcorn since it does connect to the original meaning of "insult to injury" (i.e. causes more pain)
    – eques
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 14:21

Add insult to injury is the correct and accepted idiom in the English language. Your textbook is wrong.

However, I personally think (and this opinion therefore has no factual value) the eggcorn was born the other way around: people mistook it to be insult and used it publicly for long enough that it became the new status-quo.

One example off the top of my head is couldn't care less vs. could care less. Idioms are not supposed to make sense on the surface level, so it's convenient for public idiocy and apathy to affect them.

  • 4
    It's unlikely to have derived the other way because in most dialects it would be more natural to say simply "add salt to" rather than "add in salt". Further more, the idiom is add salt to a wound, not an injury (i.e. a wound suggests something that could be impacted by salt whereas injury also historically meant injustice, etc
    – eques
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 14:24

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