Remembering 9/11--Or Not
Penelope Fitzgerald: The Knox Brothers

A New Kind of Crazy

From a comment at Rod Dreher's blog: "Throughout human history....people have gone stark raven mad or crazy."

I like that. I had a post about that kind of thing not so very long ago--not craziness, I mean, but the phenomenon where someone substitutes for a word that was really part of a saying or idiom another that sounds like it, as in "tow the line." Though this one may just be an erroneous auto-correct that slipped by. Anyway, it's a rather striking image. 


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I just read about one the other day which I never really thought about: "homed in on" vs. "honed in on." The former is the correct one, but the latter has been used so much that it's now considered somewhat acceptable. I've only ever used "homed" because in context "honed" never made much sense to me.

And then there's "horned in" which I still use, but which is different from both of the above.

Related to this I came across a funny misheard lyric recently. In Lloyd Cole's song "Four Flights Up" there's a line that runs "When I ask you what you want you say a Diamante crocodile." On one of the lyric websites or other they had it as "When I ask you what you want you say 'Do you mind a crocodile?'" That brought to mind some strange visuals.



I never would have understood "Diamante crocodile"! I'm not aware of ever having heard it before, but maybe I thought I heard "do you mind a crocodile?"

Sometimes the mistaken word actually fits. In fact when it catches on and becomes common, I guess it usually does, or else it wouldn't catch on. "Tow the line" makes sense. Maybe more than "toe the line" unless you have some idea of its origin. "One in the same" for "one and the same".

I don't think I've ever heard or seen "one in the same."

I've seen it so many times that I began to wonder if I had it wrong. Then just recently I ran across it in some non-contemporary book, possible Henry James.

In climate weather.


I have come across "reign in" several times in the past few weeks. It's like "tow the line" in that it makes a certain amount of sense if you are unaware of the original.

"For all intensive purposes" is one of my pet peeves. I don't know why it annoys me so much more than any of these others.

Janet, I'm wondering what other kind of weather there is. Perhaps, when we get unseasonable weather, we have to consider whether it is the new climate weather.

I see "reign in" fairly often, but "in climate weather" is a new one to me, too. Good grief. That's not just confused, that's...dumb. I assume you've seen that in print, and I don't know how anyone could write that and not realize that something must be wrong. "all intensive purposes" bugs me a lot, too. It just seems more egregious than some of the others somehow.

We really are tending towards becoming a post-literate society. For all intensive purposes.

My wife saw, posted on Facebook, a USA Today story about some big celebrity gathering for which some celebrity "dawned" a certain dress. She (wife) was not aware of this discussion, either. Sort of negative serendipity.

"One foul swoop" always annoys me, both in print and in conversation. And of course there's the ever-popular "mute point."

I've also heard "It's a doggie-dog world out there," although I've mercifully never seen it in print.

"Mute point" is one that really drives me crazy! I worked with people down in Mobile that kept saying it over and over, but I always feel that since we are all adults it is somewhat rude to challenge/correct other people's colloquialisms .

I can imagine a certain kind if radiant, healthy young woman dawning a dress.

It was on a notice from one at the seminary. In case of in climate weather, classes will be cancelled.


I changed "if" to "of." I promise I did.


"on a notice" Sigh, that was my last hope.

It's definitely rude to correct other people! But I guess my doing a blog post about it is almost as bad. Or worse. "Mute point" is one of those that does make a sort of sense. Unlike "in climate weather."

I actually had to stop and think about "foul swoop." I've heard it a lot and it's been a long time since I read Macbeth.

I made one of these myself in real life today! In a conversation about unpleasant consequences of one's actions, I quoted (I thought) the adage, "When you pick up one end of a snake..." and my husband said, "What? It's a stick!"
I like to think my version actually makes even more sense than the original.

Hmm, I don't even recognize that one.

I butted heads with my wife about another one. Actually I was thinking we discussed it here, but if we did I can't find it. I was laughing about someone writing "If you think that, you've got another thing coming." "Ha ha, isn't that funny?" I said. "Why?" she said. "It's 'another think.'" Turned out she's always heard it as "thing." Turns out a lot of people agree, because it came up somewhere--maybe it was a real-world conversation?--and I think I may actually have been in the minority.

I have usually heard "thing" and always wondered if it was "think."

Anne-Marie, I think "snake" is a lot better, and if it's not the correct word, it ought to be. My granddaughter had the experience of mistakenly picking up a snake once when picking up sticks before my husband cut the grass. And, her mother picked up a snake by the tail and it whipped around and bit her.

How does the rest of the saying go.


I'm with you in the "think" camp, Maclin.

Janet, I know the saying as, "If you pick up one end of a stick/snake, you pick up the other end, too." Your daughter's experience shows how much more vivid a warning it is with "snake" than with "stick!"

I've never heard that (as far as I can remember). But "snake" really does add some extra, um, bite to the adage.

" enchanted cosmos—bright in color, teaming with life. "

Can't say I've ever heard the saying, but 'snake' makes less sense to me than 'stick.' Who'd pick up one end of a snake in the first place?

Lots of people! Well, relatively. I know someone who used to be a very avid snake-picker-upper. I picked one up a few weeks ago--just a baby, saved it from our cat.

To return to the inspiration for the post, I think "stark raven mad" is great. If I were an artist, I would paint a picture of a starkly mad raven.


Yeah, when I said I like it in the post I wasn't being sarcastic. If you search for "raven mad" you get more hits than you might expect. Many involve an EP called Mad by a band called Raven.

Surely going "stark raven mad" is what the narrator of Poe's poem has ahead of him.

Pretty much there, I'd say. :-)

I think my young training is working against my imagination here. When we were kids we were told that if you have to pick up a snake never pick it up by the tail because it can curl back around and bite you.

My wife and I were laughing this morning about, "take for granite."

I've never seen "taken for granite" but that's hilarious. I was thinking it would be fun to write a short piece on a given subject, itself a malaprop, with as many of these included as possible. The key to its success would be to use them "appropriately" rather than just cramming them in for effect.

That would be difficult, since the only thing that binds them is their malapropism.

I think I've seen "take for granite." Like a lot of these, it makes a sort of sideways sense: something or someone solid. The one that's been mentioned here that I never ever would have imagined is "doggie-dog world."

That advice about snakes is no doubt sound. I vaguely remember, actually, from some nature lore, that you're supposed to grasp them right behind the head.

"per say" I've seen that one several times and am not sure what some of the people who use it think it means. Exchange at Rod Dreher's blog:

" parks seem to be really bad places for human interaction."

Response: 'I dunno if it's "dog parks" per say.'

Not an incorrect use of the term.

Yes, forgot about "per say." I always find that one annoying.

Along the same lines, various misspellings of "Voila!" On Dreher's blog a few weeks back someone actually wrote "Wallah." I had no idea what he was saying until after I'd read it three or four times.

I had a friend some 30 years ago who wrote it that way. I'm pretty certain he knew better and it was meant as a joke. Somehow I had the impression that it was something borrowed from comedian, as the friend was a big tv-watcher, though I don't know how that spelling could have come from tv. Maybe Dreher's commenter was similarly trained. ;-)

"...the tenants of our faith..."

"Sorta speak."

Ha. Took me a minute to get that one. You’ve actually seen it written that way?! That would be funny since “sorta” isn’t a real word (yet). Sorta like “kinda”.

I read on the internet that she people will "correct" someone else by saying, "no, it's 'sort of speak.'"

*some people.

Hey, we can coin a new one -- "soda speak."

For all intensive purposes everyone took it for granite that he was stark raven mad, soda speak.

Makes almost as much sense as “sorta speak” I guess.

"chester drawers"

"chester drawers."
When I was young, that is what I thought it was. My sister still says it.

I think a lot of people say it that way, but I've never seen it written. My wife says she has.

Just saw this: "people like this are a diamond dozen" which is hilariously backward.

Now that's really disheartening.

"Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?" -- Digory Kirke

That there's no such thing as "correct"? (Which, strictly speaking, is...correct. But not the right lesson to teach kinds.

There's a significant chance that the person who wrote that has a college degree.

Also, I ran across another instance of the misuse of "lay" by someone with a doctorate. I've already forgotten exactly where it was, which is just as well.

"Club owner fatally shot while trying to diffuse fight"

That's a very popular one, and another which sort of halfway makes sense.

Yesterday I heard a tenured professor say, "They asked D and I to sing."

Sure, "diffuse" makes some sense, but aren't newspapers supposed to be staffed by people who know what's correct?

I don't think I'm being excessively flippant in saying "not anymore." The chances are good that whoever wrote that headline has a college degree. That kind of thing just apparently isn't very important now.

What department is your professor in?

"They asked D and I to sing."

Learning Latin would help you avoid that.

Would it? I mean, I know (or at least I think I recall) that Latin has strict cases. But how would that carry over into English.

I saw this from an academic (paraphrased for concealment): "how did the problem effect them?"

In Latin the subject of the infinitive would be in the accusative case (the objective case in English grammar).

Actually, I was kind of kidding. You can't apply grammar from one foreign language to another. Different languages approach the same meaning in different ways.

The best thing to do is to take the "D and" off. Would you say, "They asked I to sing"?

There is a radio commercial currently running from a car company in which one of the speakers says that the vehicle has a 6500 pound towing capacity, but pronounces 'towing' as if tow rhymed with cow. How did that one get by the editors? Or are there places that say it that way?

I've never heard it!

"The best thing to do is to take the "D and" off." I know. It's really simple and almost anybody would hear it instantly as wrong. But apparently they don't do that.

I asked my 16-year-old son how he would explain why "They asked D and I to sing" is wrong. He said without hesitation, "Just take the 'D and ' off and it is obvious!"

We must be doing something right.

On the other hand, we would say, "They said that D and I should sing." Maybe the confusion comes from something like that.

I've always thought that it comes from teachers correcting the erroneous use of "me" with another pronoun or noun. "Me and him went to the store." So the teacher tells them "No, he and I went to the store." But what sticks is an over-correction: "don't say 'me' when there are two people involved."

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