In a slight departure from our usual feature here at the Dept., the Defender of The Language has decided to use this space to air her own personal grievances regarding some linguistic faux pas she has encountered in the world of print media. She will not, therefore, be answering Reader Mail in this installment.
Thank you, Nance. Unfortunately, it would seem that the world at large and print journalism in particular either suffer from a sort of language laziness, or worse, a basic ignorance of English. I have recently noticed no less than three abuses of homophonic words in professional print sources.
1. faze/phase: "Faze" means to disturb or embarrass, usually a person. For example, you might say, "The stuck teleprompter didn't even faze him; he continued his speech without a problem." "Phase" indicates a stage or an aspect of something, as in "All children go through a finicky phase as toddlers." It is astonishing to me that so many native speakers are not even aware that "faze" exists as a correct word. (Yes, I am continually fazed by that fact.)
2. pour/pore: How I cringe at this error! Truly, it is horrid. When you "pour," you send a liquid flowing out of a vessel. Metaphorically, you could even send a stream of words flowing forth. When you "pore," however, you scrutinize or study something. "Pore" used as a verb is generally accompanied by the modifier "over," as in "She pored over her notes before the exam." (If she poured over her notes, she'd ruin them and fail the test.)
3. palette/palate/pallet: I have seen this error on menus in restaurants which pride themselves on being upscale. Needless to say, they no longer enjoy my patronage (although I do find myself patronizing them). An artist uses a "palette" upon which to hold and mix his/her colors. This word can also refer to a range of colors, sometimes within a particular family of hues, such as a warm palette or a wintry palette. A "palate," however, is one's sense of taste, aesthetics, or more concretely, the roof of the mouth. One might say, "Burgers and beer are too ordinary for Fawn's refined palate." Finally, a "pallet" is either a low wooden platform used in warehouses or a small, makeshift bed, usually of blankets and no mattress. (It would be ridiculous to try to sleep upon a palette or palate, and with a bit of concentration and attention to basic spelling, one would never have to worry about such an arrangement.)
Simply put, all of these errors never should have happened. Someone should have caught them before they appeared on materials disseminated to the public. Perhaps the time of Grammatical Civility is over and the era of Grammar Vigilantism is at hand. If that is what is necessary, so be it. I hope I can rely on each of you to join in the struggle.
Thank you, Defender of The Language! I know you can count on all DoN Readers. For the Defender Fans, don't forget to submit your questions and/or Language Alerts to Nance here at the Dept. of Nance via email by using the clickable link in the sidebar.