Tuesday, July 27, 2004


I have a confession to make. I’m a stickler for matters of grammar and style. I can get a bit anal about it to be honest. I blame the parents. My mother actually – she used to be an English teacher, and some of it obviously rubbed off on me. Perhaps my ideal career is as a sub-editor. There is a particular type of mistake that I have noticed a lot of in South African publications, perhaps because English is often not the mother tongue of the writer.

The thing is, I don’t know what it is called when you garble the message by not understanding a phrase’s origin. This is what I am talking about:
Baited breath / bated breath
Tow the line / toe the line
To the manor born / to the manner born
It’s not quite a malapropism, but I don’t know what it is. That last one was from the Telegraph’s cricket coverage, so perhaps it was meant to be a clever play on the use of the word ‘manor’, meaning an area of London. Or perhaps the writer thinks that Robert Key looks like Penelope Keith. Who knows.

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