A political blogger wrote, "I eased dropped on a committee meeting at Occupy LA last night. One guy announced to the group, 'Okay, homework tonight is to find out about Glass-Steagall.' "
The blogger's homework should have been to look up eavesdropped, which is the word that says what he apparently intended to say.
To eavesdrop is to listen silently to a private conversation. Eaves are the overhanging lower edges of a roof, meant to carry rainwater away from the foundation of the house. Way, way back, the area under the eaves came to be called the eavesdrop. And then some sneaky sort discovered that standing in that area was a good way to secretly overhear conversations inside.
Most blogs are one-person operations, so there are no copyeditors to catch the writer's mistakes. State Sen. Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett advises of a blog that used the word "pivotable." He asks, "Is there such a word as 'pivotable', or should it not be 'pivotal'?"
I'm reasonably sure that pivotal ("of vital or critical importance") is the word the writer was seeking.
Sports conquers the universe:
American sports idioms are sneaking into Australian usage. A story in the Sydney Morning Herald about an examination given to high school students said. "Year 12 students were thrown a curve ball yesterday ..." This prompted a columnist to ask, "Could the examiners not have given the students a surprise? Or created consternation? Or thrown a spanner in the works?"
The Wall Street Journal published an article along similar lines:
"Broadcasters covering the National Basketball Association for Spanish-speaking fans from different parts of the world do it from a Tower of Babel where a dunk is not a dunk, but the play-by-play guys disagree about just what to call it. 'Some say donquear. That'd be Spanglish,' says Jose Paneda, an announcer for Miami's WQBA-AM radio. [Spanglish is a mixture of Spanish and English.] But donquear doesn't work in Argentina, where dunk is volcada, he says. In Spain, it's mate, which literally means 'the kill,' as when a matador administers the lethal thrust in a bullfight." When he throws the bull a curveball, so to speak.
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