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Scapegoat or escape goat

Scapegoat is a closed compound word. Escape goat is an eggcorn. A compound word is a word derived from two or more separate words used together to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. Compound words are usually composed of two nouns, or an adjective and a noun. New compound words usually consist of two or more separate words, and are called open compound words. An open compound word is a noun that is composed … [Read more...]

Olfactory vs old factory

Olfactory is a word that has been in use since the mi-1600s, while old factory is a more recent invention. We will examine the definitions of the words olfactory and old factory, where they came from and some examples of use in sentences. Olfactory describes something that is related to the sense of smell. Olfactory is an adjective, the noun form is olfaction. The olfactory system includes the structures of the nose, as well as olfactory glands and olfactory nerves. The word olfactory is … [Read more...]

Take for granted or take for granite

Take for granted and take for granite are two phrases that are often confused, but only one is correct. We will examine the definition of the correct phrase, where these expressions came from and some examples of the use of the correct phrase in sentences. Take for granted may mean to assume something is true without testing it or questioning it, or to expect something to always be available. Take for granted may also mean to not be grateful for something or someone or not appreciate … [Read more...]

Up and at ‘em vs up and Adam or atom

Up and at ‘em and up and Adam or atom are expressions that are often used, and often confused. We will examine the meaning of the terms up and at ‘em, and up and Adam or atom, where the phrases came from and some examples of their use in sentences. Up and at ‘em is a phrase that is an exhortation to get out of bed and get going, to get busy, to quit wasting time and accomplish something. The ‘em in up and at ‘em is an abbreviation of the word them. Most believe that the expression up and at … [Read more...]

Contract a disease or contact a disease

The phrases contract a disease and contact a disease are often confused, but only one of these terms is correct. We will examine the meaning and origin of the phrases contract a disease and contact a disease as well as some example of the correct use in sentences. To contract a disease means to catch or acquire an illness through the exposure to a contagious pathogen. However, one may also contract a disease that is non-communicable such as cancer. Contract a disease is a verb phrase, related … [Read more...]

Curry favor

Curry favor is an idiom that is based on an eggcorn, which is a misheard word or phrase that retains its original meaning. We will examine the meaning of the term curry favor, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences. Curry favor means to ingratiate oneself by flattery or overattentive behavior. The term curry favor is an eggcorn of the phrase curry Fauvel. Fauvel was the main character in the poem Roman de Fauvel, which was written by Gervais de Bus and Chaillou de … [Read more...]

Old wives’ tale vs old wise tale

An old wives' tale is a belief or superstition that is commonly believed to be true but is not based on actual fact. An old wives' tale is usually but not always erroneous, it is folklore passed down from one generation to another without the benefit of scientific analysis. The word wives in this case comes from the Old English word wif, meaning woman, not necessarily a married woman. At one time, the information handed down from one generation of women to another was valuable wisdom. In this … [Read more...]

Loop de loop or loop the loop

The dictionary lists a loop-the-loop as a thrill ride that sends its passengers in a complete 360 degree circle. It is more commonly used to describe anything doing the same movement. A plane can loop the loop in the sky when turns in a vertical circle. It follows the general rule of phrasal verbs that are hyphenated when used as a noun or adjective but separate words when used in verb form. The word loop comes from the Scottish Gaelic lùb which means to bend. Other phrases which … [Read more...]

All of a sudden or all of the sudden

The official phrase approved by dictionaries is all of a sudden. The phrase dates back to Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew, though oddly the variant all of the sudden was in print six years before Shakespeare. The word sudden itself means at once or without warning, and all of a sudden is a long way to say suddenly, they are interchangeable. Grammatically speaking there is little difference between using the article a or the. However, dictionaries side with Shakespeare. Another archaic … [Read more...]

Happy median or happy medium

The correct idiom is happy medium and not happy median. The confusion of a phrase based on its pronunciation is called an eggcorn. Medium is the middle term for size, in between large and small. It is also the name for people who believe they can channel thoughts from the  dead, and the term for materials used by an artist. Median is the middle of a set of numbers, as well as the divider in a road. But while happy median does make logical sense, the standardphrase, which has been in use … [Read more...]

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