or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


A few weeks ago I was snarking about writers who mistake one word for another even though they ought to know better and the words are completely unrelated, and now look at this mess from a recent edition of The Onion:

"Breech" is hardly ever seen by itself in the singular but often encountered in the phrases "breech-loading" or "breech birth": when it stands alone it's always the plural "breeches", "trousers", frequently countrified to "britches".

The word the Onion writer was making a stab at is "breach", which is the flip side of "break" and has more or less exactly the same meaning. (In English we often see this soft "-ch-" or "-sh-" or "-s-" sound paired with a related hard "-k-" sound: "drink" and "drench", for example, or "haunches" and "hunker".*) "Breech" may or may not be descended from "breach", but it is not the same word.

* An amusing variant of this is "flacon", which in English has a hard "-c-" but in French is spelled "flaçon", with a soft "-ç-": the related word is "flask", but we also have "flagon", which is midway between "flacon" and "flaçon" and seems like a half-hearted attempt to soften the middle consonant without completely mushing it up.


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