Posted by: episystechpubs | November 4, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Five Misspelled Idioms

Good afternoon! We have a lot of new subscribers today—a hearty welcome to you!

While I am busily adding you to the distribution list, I have some information for from the Daily Writing Tips newsletter. Today’s topic is misspelled idioms.

Note to newbies: I generally write in blue text to differentiate my comments and lessons from information I borrow.

Five Misspelled Idioms

1. waiting with bated breath
The word bated in this expression is often misspelled “baited.” For example, “We’re waiting with baited breath to hear if Rosie O’Donnell is officially coming back to daytime screens.”

The word bated is from a shortening of the verb abate. “To bate” means “to reduce, to lessen in intensity.” The expression “bated breath” is the only survival of the word in modern English.

2. lo and behold
People use this to mean something like “and then see what happened.” The idiom is frequently misspelled as “low and behold.” Lo is an old form of “look.”

3. pore over
Not to be confused with the noun pore (an opening in the skin), the verb pore means, “to study or examine carefully.” In expressions like “pore over a book” and “pore over my taxes,” the word is often misspelled as pour (to transfer liquid).

4. toe the line
This expression derives from the practice of lining up with one’s toe touching a line that has been drawn on the ground. Competitors line up to begin a race or some other competition. When everyone “toes the line” in this way, conformity has been achieved. In modern use, the expression occurs almost always in a political context with the meaning of “to conform to a political party’s platform.” It is often miswritten as “tow the line.” [KC – I always imagined it was people all doing the same thing but towing (pulling) a rope! I pictured a bunch of people in a tug-of-war, all pulling the rope in the same
direction. Go figure!]

5. pique one’s interest/curiosity
The French borrowing pique means “to stimulate.” The word is sometimes misspelled as peek and peak. [KC – Peeking at someone else’s curiosity is generally considered bad manners.

For more information on each of these, there are links on the Daily Writing Tips website.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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