As a writer on language, I’m especially sensitive to mistakes I encounter while reading. They seem to leap off the page, and I gleefully seize them as potential material for this column.
Here are some of my recent “catches,” all from major newspapers:
- “The restaurant is offering a prefix dinner menu with a choice of two courses….”
Unless the eatery also serves suffixes, the correct spelling isprix-fixe (meaning “fixed price”). This French expression can be misspelled in multiple ways, and I suspect that I’ve seen every possible permutation.
- “During those Games, [Mark Spitz] also famously tried to psyche out a Russian coach….”
The slang expression for messing with the head of an opponent, a verb, is spelled psych (and pronounced SIKE). The nounpsyche (pronounced SY-kee), refers to the mind or spirit.
- “But the details on how each [cellphone] carrier handles or transfers contacts can be a little dicey.”
The word dicey means involving danger or risk. The writer surely meant that the details were unclear or uncertain.
- “[The pastor greeted] handsome young men in his church with warm hugs and hair-tussling horseplay….”
The verb tussle means struggle or scuffle. It might make sense here, in a strained way, but the writer probably meant hair-tousling.[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]