EXTRA: Natalie misspells a word!

May 2, 2011 Comments Off on EXTRA: Natalie misspells a word!

Expressions are hard. I constantly see them mis-written, largely on Facebook: things like “tow the line,” “good riddins,” “complements of the chef,” “case and point,” and “once and a while.” It often reflects an alternate understanding of the phrase or the way the listener has mentally divided and/or spelled the words. I remember seeing something my Uncle Greg had written as a little kid where he spelled “until” “and tell.” It’s really interesting. Because I notice these variations all the time, I try to make it a point to know the right way to write them.

So I was dismayed when The Economist taught me today that the phrase I’ve always seen and written “just desserts” is actually spelled “just deserts.” Being a child of the new millennium, of course I ran straight to Google to verify, and sure enough, I’ve been wrong for decades.

desert, in an old, almost completely obsolete sense, means “suitable reward,” from Latin deservire, “to serve well” (modern cognate: deserve)

dessert, on the other hand, comes from French desservir, “to clear the table,” which still exists—I’ve actually learned this word in class!

It’s not often that I misspell a word on a regular basis (not counting my penchant for archaic spellings). It makes me peevish and cranky. But at least now I know. Tell your friends.

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