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When I am Copyeditor General ...: The basics will be covered


The basics will be covered

I've written before about discovering grammatical errors I didn't even know existed; it's a little like being an archaeologist, except it's less dusty and involves fewer bones. And while archaeologists look for fossils, I find living, breathing, evolving examples of incorrect language use.

Example: this week I received a work-related email newsletter that included the phrase "covered off on the basics." In context, in passing, it sounded reasonable, sort of. But it was also a new phrase to me. Why had I never encountered it before?

And so to Google, to see how many other sites featured the same phrase. None, it turned out, but a number used a similar one:

Copyeditor General's ruling: I suspect this oddity is the result of people mishearing a more common and correct idiom. Can you tell what it is?


Holly said...

'Covering all the bases' is a good thought...but my guess is that it's just some new business lingo that people like to say to sound 'circle back with you' and 'out of pocket'.
Speaking of business-speak...would love to hear your thoughts on the increased use (at least in my company) of " as per" (as per your email, per our conversation). It's making me crazy!

LimeyG said...

I think it is "covering all the bases": my (admittedly pessimistic) guess is that it's a phrase people hear more than they read, so they don't have the contextual sense of its original meaning. That said, if it's not a deliberate part of business jargon now, I'm sure it will be in a year (shudder).

And more shudders for "per se"! Drives me nuts, too, especially as much of the time people use it to mean "in reference to" or "regarding" as opposed to "in accordance with."

My other current favorite (or not): you're sitting in a meeting, in a room, at a conference table, and the discussion is being sidetracked by a sub-topic that isn't relevant to the whole group. And someone says, "That's really important, but maybe we can discuss it offline."

And you think, But we're already offline! We're not online; we're sitting here! How can we take an offline discussion MORE offline??

Or perhaps that's just me.

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