Monday, September 10, 2007

Toe the line

Is it toe the line or tow the line? I've seen that question go around the net a few times. I lean on the side of TOE the line, as in step right up to the line with your toe upon it and get ready to start running.

Emails are a great source for these annoying idioms people get Wrong. I have a colleague who peppers his emails with these little bon mots and usually gets them wrong. Enh! Buzzer! Makes you look, uh, not so witty, you know? I wish he would just stop, but on the other hand, I've started my own collection of his malapropisms.

Intense and purposes.

No. No. No. It doesn't make sense, you idjut. Here's a general rule for writing, if the phrase makes no sense, then you have it wrong. For all Intents and Purposes. I have an intention to go do something, and there is a Purpose to my actions or my decision. I'm not being "intense", I have an intention. Spell checker is not your friend.

Could care less

Well, I'm sure you could care less, but I could NOT care less. If you could care less, then you obviously care a little bit. If you couldn't care less, then you do not give a whit about the subject at hand. Spell check is not your friend.


I don't care a whit about your larger plans, as you are fast proving yourself to be inane. Whit, with an aitch, is a word. Wit, as in joyful clever use of language, is also a word. Whit means a tiny amount, a speck, a drop. Don't fling those two around together in sentences. Spell check is not your friend.

To the manor borne (so wrong in SO many ways!)

Oh, this one sent me right over the edge. First, to be borne usually means to be carried, although archaic spelling sometimes uses that spelling to refer to childbirth. But hey, you're writing in 2007, right? So spell it like you mean it. The original phrase is "to the manner born", as in, I was born to a certain social class and there is a way of carrying myself or speaking, which demonstrates that status. That's the meaning of "manner". If I happen to have been born as a working class bloke, but soon I toddle about wearing tweed and sporting a certain accent, then I carry myself as if I were "to the manner born." No one can tell.

OK, but then this ever so clever fellow working for the BBC started a sitcom oh so cleverly entitled, "To the Manor Born." Cute! Love this show. Excellent. It's about a Manor, an estate! Love the witty (not whitty) Brits. But my ever so dim friend thinks that this spelling is the real one. Oy.

First, .... Secondly, .... Third of all, ....

Picky, picky, Suisan. If you have a list, you are supposed to use the same construct for the beginning sentence of each part of the list. (Although I do think that Firstly sounds dreadful). It's OK to use "[blank] of all" at the end so signify that it's the end of the list, but it's so much easier to turn "Secondly" into "Second" and resolve the stupidity.

Proof is in the pudding

No. It's not. Sorry, but it's hard for puddings, whether steamed or stirred, to generate logical proofs of anything. Brain capacity is minimal. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Shortening that aphorism changes its meaning. So don't bother.

Free Reign

This one's all over the place. If I'm riding a horse, and I don't particularly care where he's going, maybe we're just strolling along the side of the lane, then I "give him his head." I give him slack in the reins so that there is no tension between my hand and the bit. The reins drop down on his neck in a slack curve. This is called "walking on a free rein." A rein is that strappy thing on a bridle (NOT bridal) that goes from the bit to the hands. A reign is a period of time that someone has a crown on his head. I don't know what a free reign is -- on that doesn't charge taxes or end with a beheading? Say it with me folks, "Spell check is not your friend."

Mute point

It's a moot point at this juncture to point out that you should stop trying to fancify your language to impress me. Stop. Please. (A moot point usually means that there's no point in talking about it anymore. I don't know what a mute point is.) Spell check is ....

Epigram for Aphorism (although now I'm just being snotty and looking for this guy to screw up.)

An Aphorism is a witty, pithy phrase. An Epigram is a poem. The last email you sent to me, a paragraph of which I've quoted below, sent me into such a tizzy that I had to write this screed. Please stop writing in your highfalutin manner. It's giving me heart trouble.

I know that you have expressed an interest in stepping off our committee, but I need to ask you to reconsider. There is a role for the school board here, and we have a duty to the community to provide watchful oversite, especially for the young children. I've heard that the rest of the Board has agreed to cease sending a representative, so perhaps this is a mute point. We do good work on the CAP, and I hope that your worthy experiences here have not proven the epigram true: A committee is a group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary. Should I address the Board on this matter?

Oh really, please don't. It will just make my ears explode. That's messy for the secretaries, you know? Oh look, he misused oversite too. What is an oversite? An overpass perhaps? (It's overSIGHT, you idjut.)


meljean brook said...

I see the reign/rein mistake ALL the time in romance novels, and it always drives me crazy.

(Which reminds me -- I'm now totally addicted to the Fugly Horse of the Day site because of a link you gave here a while back, sigh.)

I've caught To The Manor Born on PBS a couple of times -- love that show. Love most of the British sitcoms, actually. Damn clever British.

CindyS said...

I pretty much riddle my stuff with mistakes.

I thought it would be tow the line because you are meant to stand beside everyone else and pull in the same direction. So you aren't allowed to speak your mind.

'Could care less' I think has come out of just speech patterns. If you sit and think it out logically it doesn't work but it's used in speech to say 'I don't care'

I had no clue about the 'whit' although I wouldn't have written the sentence if I couldn't make 'wit' make sense in it. Dizzy yet?

Course, I get my knickers in a knot when people pronouce schedule as 'shedule'. Hmmm, do you go to school or 'shool'.

CindyS (always wrong)

Bookwormom said...

One of my peeves is "irregardless" which isn't even a word.

You're spot on about chronic speech and grammar issues lowering one's perception of someone. I'm on a listserv which has a member who makes these types of mistakes very frequently and I cringe every time I get a message from him. He's a nice guy, but my opinion of him isn't quite what it used to be. Shallow of me I'm sure.

sxKitten said...

"I could care less" is one of my major peeves, too, but for some reason "mute point" strikes me as funny rather than irritating.

I once worked with someone who used "supposably" as often as possible. It took a great deal of self restraint not to smack her in the head every time I heard it.

And yes, it's "toe the line".

Lyvvie said...

I always thought "Toe the line" came from boxing where the boxers would face off by placing the toe of their boots on a start line.

I'm guilty of one, and it's a bad habit that drive my husband crazy, but I mean effeminate but say effeminant. My tongue refuses to say it correctly.

A good thing is: no one knows the correct spelling if idjit, eejit or idjut. It's completely ok to spell it like all of the above. I think. Now I have doubts. We always use idjit.