'Beckon Call,' 'All Tolled' and Other Misheard TermsPosted by June on November 30, 2015
LABELS: COPY EDITING, GRAMMAR, IDIOMS, WORD USAGE
Here are a few terms people often mishear. Take care next time you want to use one of them!
Beckon call. When people say "beckon call,” what they really wanted to say was probably “beck and call.” A beck is a summoning gesture, and, yes, it’s related to “beckon.” Here’s Garner’s Modern American Usage: “‘Beckon call’ is an understandable guess at the phrase, since one would naturally call out to beckon someone. And ‘beckon’ is a more familiar term than its shorter sibling ‘beck.’”
All tolled. "All told" is sometimes used wrong as “all tolled.” It means roughly the same thing as “all said and done,” suggesting that once you have the whole story, something becomes clear. But there is a myth circulating out there — one I, myself, briefly fell for — that the correct form is “all tolled,” meaning all counted. Not so. “All told” is the original and proper form.
Bold-faced liar. Liars are often bold. But their faces aren’t. So a “bold-faced liar” is the misheard form of the original term “bald-faced liar.” Bald-faced means brazen, obvious and shameless — as many liars are.
Pawn off. “Pawn off” is an interesting mishearing of “palm off.” The original term with “palm” means to pass something off to some unwitting person — a usage Merriam Webster’s says is probably a reference to cheating at cards or sleight-of-hand tricks. Again, it’s easy to see where this one went awry. Pawn shops are at least as prevalent in the modern consciousness as card cheats.
One in the same. If you say that two things are really “one in the same,” you probably mean that they’re “one and the same.”
Baited breath. If you’re waiting for someone with “baited breath,” you might be inadvertently conjuring thoughts of worms and chum: The term is actually “bated breath,” whose first word is related to “abate,” meaning, basically, to stop.
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June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more
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