An Annoyingly Common Misusage

In journalism there is often a confusion of the two words pour and pore.  One pours liquid from a decanter — one pores over a hitherto secret document.  I see this all of the time, and sometimes wish I didn’t.  A contrived example: “He eagerly poured over the communique from headquarters.”  This mistake only works one way; no-one writes “The bartender pored more whiskey into the sot’s fingerprint-begrimed glass.”  Here’s an example from the Financial Times in a headline, no less:

Why does this mistake escape the editors and proofreaders?  Possibly because the error almost makes sense — I suppose one could imagine someone “pouring” their attention, if that attention is visualized as a metaphorical liquid; a bit of a stretch, but one which leads to errors in print.

When I first contemplated writing about this burning issue, which threatens Western civilization as we know it (just kidding!), the word solecism came to mind — but the word didn’t seem quite right.  I did a bit of desultory research and came across this quote which explains why that word isn’t apropos:

Samuel Johnson once wrote:

A barbarism may be in one word; a solecism must be of more.

Just some early-morning musings…


3 comments on “An Annoyingly Common Misusage

  1. Joan says:

    OK, all very true, Larry, but as someone who admittedly confuses “baited” and “bated”, I have no right to comment on this one. Still…the problem is in print, and as we know, so few people read nowadays for the news, it won’t likely stir up much ire.

    This gives me an opportunity, however, to once again give voice to those things that head my most annoying list. These are errors one hears constantly on the tube, by both news persons and those who have had enough education that they should know better. The first one, is not ever correct nor will it ever be. The second, is so viral at this point, that it may make its way into accepted usage and eventually the dictionary. (shudder)

    The first one is subject verb agreement. People make up their minds.. they know in their hearts, they go to their respective doctors, they do not make up their mind, know in their heart, and ask their doctor, unless in the latter case there is a vast medical plan only attended to by one physician.

    The next one is the now almost universal substitution of the word ‘impacted’ for the word “affected.” I just get this unsettling visual of all these people being literally smashed together by a new law or pronouncement. I’m sorry, it may be a generational thing, but back in ‘my’ day, ( which admittedly was probably the paleolithic era,) ‘ impacted’ was a jammed tooth, not, a ‘one size fits every mundane occasion’ word.

  2. Larry Ayers says:

    The misuse of “impacted” just galls me as well, Joan. I suppose that at some time in the past some shoddy wordsmith (probably a political speechwriter) thought that “impact” had more punch than “affect”. These usages spread like verbal viruses.

    As well as impacted teeth, there are also impacted stools. I once had a friend who worked as an orderly in the Quincy Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home. He had horror stories galore about digging out impacted stools — and projectile vomiting. Protect us from such fates!

  3. Joan says:

    Amen, to that, Larry. It’s a painful problem with people who are on multiple medications or high power pain meds, who are bedridden or wheelchair bound.

    Well now, You have got me wistfully longing to get back to that innocent post about pores versus pours. (grin)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *