December 30th, 2013 in Common Mistakes
When you replace a vital word in a standard phrase with another word or expression that has very similar pronunciation, what you get is an altogether new phrase that is either unintelligible or has an altogether different meaning. There are several such phrases in English.
Here is an overview.
That peaked my curiosity
The correct phrase is ‘that piqued my curiosity’.
The words peak and pique have more or less the same pronunciation. However, they have very different meanings.
To peak is to reach the highest standard of performance. To pique someone’s curiosity is to arouse their curiosity.
With baited breath
The proper phrase is ‘with bated breath’.
Bait is food used for catching birds or fish. To bait is to put food on a trap to attract fish.
Bated means ‘reduced in force’.
If you wait with bated breath you are worried or excited that you pay a lot of attention because you want to know what will happen.
‘A Fragrant Error’
Correct phrase: a flagrant error
A flagrant error is a horrendous error that cannot or will not be ignored easily.
He showed a flagrant disregard for the law. Fragrant means ‘with a pleasant smell’.
‘Low and Behold’
Correct phrase: lo and behold
This expression is used to suggest that something that you are going to tell is quite surprising.
He had almost forgotten her. Then, lo and behold, several months later, she turned up again.
The word ‘low’ can be used to refer to the sound a cow makes. It can also refer to the state of being small in quantity or amount.