or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, November 28, 2005


Typos happen in published text. They shouldn't, because it's just not that hard to run a spellchecker, but they happen. Maybe you're in a big hurry to meet a deadline and you spellcheck and then you make a last-minute revision and you type "teh" instead of "the" and just don't notice it. Fine; we're all human, we all make mistakes--that's the reason pencils have erasers, as my stepfather would say.

But when you mix up two unrelated, soundalike words, like writing "to" for "two" or "meat" for "meet"; well, that's something else altogether, because the inevitable assumption--for the finicky types who notice such things--is that you don't know what you're doing.

Today we have a paragraph from a Salon.com review of the 1979 movie "The Warriors", newly released on DVD alongside a videogame:

Ryan's near-hysteria wasn't entirely based on urban legend. There were numerous reports of violence around the country where the film was showing, though the most publicized incident was the murder of a 16-year-old boy in Dorchester, Mass.; the accused killer, a gang member, was later proved to have been drunk and asleep while the movie was showing. Paramount, perhaps in reaction to the negative publicity, quickly yanked the original posters, which featured a hoard of gang members from the movie with the legend, "These are the armies of the night" -- take that, Norman Mailer. "They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City." Some theater owners refused to display the poster; the fantasy hit too close to home.

"Hoard" has its origins in Old English "hord", "treasure" or "hiding place", and before that the Scandinavian languages. "Horde" is from an old Turkish word, "orda", that came to us through Polish "horda"; the OED lists the first English usage from 1555, and since most terminal vowels were still being pronounced in English at the time, meaning "horda" would have been pronounced the same as "horde", the new and improved spelling is understandable.

But the words don't mean the same thing, and clearly don't intersect in any way. (Saying, "Well, 'horde' means a mass of people, and 'hoard' means a mass of treasure, so they kinda-sorta have similar meanings" won't cut it.) If you use "hoard" when you mean to use "horde", you look sloppy. Or worse.


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