Posted by: Jack Henry | April 2, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Frankenstein Formations

Good morning and happy Thursday, from my home office to yours!

I’ve seen an uptick in the misuse of a particular phrase, so I thought I’d bring it to your attention. The phrase I’m seeing in some of the writing I edit is based off (or based off of) instead of the accepted phrase based on.

I did a little research and Grammar Girl tells us that this is a relatively recent phenomenon. She says it is not a regionalism. It is an incorrect phrase that really took off starting in the mid-90s, and it’s been increasing, but it’s still not as popular as the correct phrase, based on.

Apparently, linguists have been talking about this phrase for about fifteen years, although it was used, infrequently before that. According to an article on the Grammarphobia website, the term based off may result in confusion with the term “eased off” and other phrases that use “off.” And to help you remember the correct phrase, one well-respected linguist, Anne Curzan, gives us this helpful tip: things are physically built on bases (or foundations), so it makes sense to use based on.

When reading about this topic, I learned this brilliant term from GrammarBook.comFrankenstein formation—which occurs when people take part of one word or idiom and part of another and put them together. They gave the example of (please forgive me, I know this really irks a lot of you) irregardless, which is likely a Frankenstein formation of regardless and irrespective. Another example is a phrase I mentioned in a different Editor’s Corner recently: centers around. The correct phrase is centers on and the mash-up comes from revolve around and the correct term centers on.

Based on all that information, you should be more than ready to go forward using the correct terminology. Stay safe and healthy.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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