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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Common Misspellings in Everyday Expressions—Part I

Most people have heard the expression "whet your appetite." However, did you realize that the first word in the phrase is spelled whet, not wet? It's all coming back to you now, isn't it?

There are many other everyday expressions that contain a commonly misspelled word. These spelling errors usually occur because two words with the same pronunciation have been interchanged. In some cases, the correct word is simply unfamiliar to many people.

According to the 10th edition of The Gregg Reference Manual (¶719), the following expressions contain words that are frequently confused or misspelled:

●  You're a real trouper! (not trooper)

●  A sleight of hand (not slight)

●  A rite of passage (not right)

●  You piqued my interest. (not peaked)

●  Hear, hear! (not Here, here!)

In case I've piqued your interest, here's a little history on the last phrase, hear, hear! According to the "The Mavens' Word of the Day" at the Random House website,¹ hear, hear! is a common cheer used at the British House of Commons as an expression of approval (or disapproval, if it's used sarcastically). The website goes on to explain:

"As a parliamentary cheer, hear him, hear him! is first recorded in the late seventeenth century and continued into the nineteenth; the reduction to hear! or hear, hear! occurred by the late eighteenth century."

So next time you want to express your agreement with someone, you can shout, "Hear, hear!" However, if you write out this expression, don't be surprised if many people assume you have made a spelling error. You'll know better though!

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1. Random House, "The Mavens' Word of the Day," March 4, 1998, 
accessed on August 24, 2006.