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?” 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

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

Evolution of words

Our word “blue” comes from an old “Common Romance” word blavus. So? Blavus seems to come from the Latin flavus, which means yellow. Over the years, neither the spelling, nor the pronunciation, nor the meaning of words stays put. “Baroque” comes from a word that refers to a misshaped pearl. Music and art critics of the early and middle 18th century used it to refer to the style of earlier generations that they considered unnatural, overly ornate. In other words, these critics intended “baroque” as a derogatory term. It referred to music, architecture, paintings, etc. that violated “modern” notions of … Continue reading