Air on the side of caution: more misused pears

That’s advice I saw somewhere about how not to fall for scams: “If you suspect the email could be legitimate, air on the side of caution anyway.” It’s an error of course, not an airor. The expression is err on the side of caution. Air and err are two homonyms that someone mixed up. Something I like to call misused pears. (Although actually the preferred pronunciation of “err” according to the American Heritage Dictionary is ur rather than air.) Lots of people err when typing, but not on the side of caution. I wouldn’t advocate being so cautious as to … Continue reading

Eggcorns, a new word for misused pears

Children eventually stop growing. The English language does not. Most new words catch popular fancy for a while, and then drop out of site. Quite a few eventually get recognized by major dictionaries. Merriam-Webster just added 1,700 new words. “Eggcorn” now takes its place alongside malapropism, spoonerism, and mondegreen to describe a losing battle with using or understanding words. A malapropism substitutes a completely wrong word, as when Mrs. Malaprop (in the third act of The Rivals by Richard Sheridan) declares, “Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice … Continue reading

Do diligence is a must: more misused pears

When I saw that comment in a forum thread I wondered, “How due you due do diligence?” It gives me an excuse to pass on some more fun with homonyms. I suspect hasty typing accounts for that neglect of due diligence. Many losing battles with homonyms seem to result from using the more common word when the less common is correct. A Christian devotional advised readers what to do in the throws of temptation. Throe, most often used in the plural, can mean a violent spasm of pain, or as a metaphor, a condition of agonizing effort or struggle. Against … Continue reading

Queue the violin music and other misused pears

I subscribe to several email newsletters. A couple of them are valuable for more than the information they convey. Their authors have a delightfully hard time choosing the right word from a pair or more of homonyms. One of these authors admitted to being stressed by something and apparently figured most of his readership wouldn’t be especially sympathetic. So he added, “queue the violin music.” “Queue” is a much more common word in British English than American English. It means a line of people waiting, say, to buy a concert ticket. As a classical music lover, it saddens me that … Continue reading