Five Misspelled Idioms

By Maeve Maddox

Some idioms are confused in the speaking; others just in the spelling. The following idioms are usually pronounced correctly, but they are often misspelled in writing.

1. waiting with bated breath
The word bated in this expression is often misspelled “baited.” For example, “We’re waiting with baited breath to hear if Rosie O’Donnell is officially coming back to daytime screens.”  

The word bated is from a shortening of the verb abate. “To bate” means “to reduce, to lessen in intensity.” The expression “bated breath” is the only survival of the word in modern English. Read more here.

2. lo and behold
People use this to mean something like “and then see what happened.” The idiom is frequently misspelled as “low and behold.” Lo is an old form of “look.” Read more here.

3. pore over
Not to be confused with the noun pore (an opening in the skin), the verb pore means, “to study or examine carefully.” In expressions like “pore over a book” and “pore over my taxes,” the word is often misspelled as pour (to transfer liquid). Read more here.

4. toe the line
This expression derives from the practice of lining up with one’s toe touching a line that has been drawn on the ground. Competitors line up to begin a race or some other competition. When everyone “toes the line” in this way, conformity has been achieved. In modern use, the expression occurs almost always in a political context with the meaning of “to conform to a political party’s platform.” It is often miswritten as “tow the line.” Read more here.

5. pique one’s interest/curiosity
The French borrowing pique means “to stimulate.” The word is sometimes misspelled as peek and peak. Here are some examples, one of them from a site that offers marketing advice:

“It was that statement that peeked my interest in acting,” says Loretta.

Lingerie styles, construction, and cultures have always peeked my curiosity.

Udemy has really peaked my interest.

Headlines That Will Have Peaked My Curiosity

Read more here.

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6 Responses to “Five Misspelled Idioms”

  • Stephen Powell

    If the author of “Lingerie styles, construction, and cultures have always peeked my curiosity.” had instead used the spelling “peaked” then we could have recognised an attempt at a pun.

  • Dale A Wood

    Soldiers or sailors who are learning to stand or march in formation toe real or imaginary lines on the ground or the deck.
    This is the most prominent form of toeing the line.
    DAW

  • Marilynn Byerly

    The misused idiom that really annoys me is “to reign in” instead of “to rein in.”

    I know that very few people ride horses these day so they don’t know that “to rein in” means slowing down or stopping a horse, but “reign in” rarely makes any sense when used.

  • Roberta B.

    The ones that grate on my ears are when two different metaphors are combined. (I seem to recall such a post.) For example, an arduous journey is erroneously expressed as a “long road to hoe,” when it should be a “long row to hoe” (as in farming) or a “long road ahead.”

  • venqax

    It probably comes up for me much more often than it does for others, but I always notice, “anchors away” instead of the proper, “anchors aweigh”.

    @Roberta: I like “we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” And, “Cleopatra’s not the only

  • venqax

    river in Egypt” Sorry for the slice…

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