baltimoresun.com

« Just write what they said | Main | What ya gonna do? »

Once more into the breach

First, learn to distinguish the derriere from the elbow.

I find this sentence in this morning’s print edition:

Watchdog first reported the breech in April, and the hole remains.

The word breech names the rump or buttocks. It’s allied etymologically to break. It’s where things break apart or split. The breech of a gun is the back end of the barrel. Breeches, alternatively britches, cover the rump. Or should.


Watchdog was reaching for breach, which is also related etymologically to break. To breach a thing is to break through it. That is why Henry V urges his comrades “once more unto the breach,” to break through an enemy’s lines or wall. The word can also be the noun for the opening in the defenses. One can also breach a contract — break it — by failing to adhere to its provisions.

There is sometimes also a confusion with broach, which means to break something open by making a hole in it. (Same root as brooch, the Middle Latin brocca, a spike or point, the thing one uses to make the hole in a container.) One broaches a keg of beer. An excellent idea. Fancy a pint?

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:36 AM | | Comments (4)
        

Comments

I thought it was "unto the breach" from King Henry V, Act III, Scene I?

JEM: Quite right. I'll fix it.

This reminds me of an inadvertant malaprop favored by JEM. He heard some misguided soul complaining that an idea "buggered the imagination." And quite right, too.

Recently I saw an story about jewelry that mentioned a "broach." I checked a couple of my dictionaries and discovered it is actually an alternate spelling for "brooch." Even if "broach" is an alternate spelling, I still prefer "brooch" for a piece of jewelry because I think it is clearer for the reader. I wonder if some people prefer the -oa- spelling because it reflects the way they pronounce the word.

...
There is sometimes also a confusion with broach, which means to break something open by making a hole in it. (Same root as brooch, the Middle Latin brocca, a spike or point, the thing one uses to make the hole in a container.) One broaches a keg of beer. An excellent idea. Fancy a pint?
...

Nautical department pipes up:

"Broach" also means for a vessel to swing sideways to the wind, usually applied to sailing vessels.

A capsize or knockdown (boat almost capsizes but get back upright) often ensues.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
Baltimore Sun Facebook page
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected