6 outdated phrases and their forgotten meanings




Language changes, but technology changes faster. We still keep using outdated phrases long after we’ve left the old technology behind. Sometimes we update their meaning. Sometimes not. Some of these phrases are centuries old. Others, older generations remember the technologies well—fondly, even. But younger people have never used them. Or perhaps never even seen them. But the language lingers. … Continue reading






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






Where’s the proof? In the pudding? Clichéd confusion




I just heard someone else say, “the proof is in the pudding.” What’s that supposed to mean? Sayings become clichés for a reason. They express a thought in a short, easily memorable form that people over a wide range of time and geography want to express. So it gets used over and over. Sometimes people get careless and don’t say it correctly. All meaning goes out the window, but unfortunately, the mangled version sometimes takes on a life of its own. It becomes as common as the correct, meaningful version, or maybe even more common. … 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?” Someone (or someone’s fingers) was having trouble 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 temptation, for example. A … Continue reading