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






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






Bare with me: more misused pears




I was on live chat with a technician, and at one point he had to look something up. So he typed, “Bare with me.” Well! I’m pretty selective when it comes to either making that invitation or accepting it. Besides, it’s much more fun when we’re in the same room. Here’s another instance where a pear (oops, pair) of homonyms tripped someone up. He chose the wrong word. He meant, “Bear with me.” Bear as a verb has numerous meanings. Among others, it means to tolerate or endure. In this case, “put up with my absence for a while.” Bear … Continue reading






How to loose your credibility




Loose and lose are similar. They’re easy to misuse and easier to mistype. I like to refer to mixing them up as “misused pears.” Some people might wonder, “who cares?” The answer is that, if those who care include potential employers, clients, customers, or other people who can directly influence your livelihood, you’d better care. In other words, you lose credibility with careless word choices. “Lose” always points to a kind of failure: failure to keep or win. “Loose,” on the other hand, has a connotation of freedom. If your jeans are loose, you’re free to move comfortably. Or if … Continue reading