Watch Your Language: Is this correct or is it a blooper?

Published 10:43 am Friday, June 9, 2023

It’s June, the regular school year is finished, and it’s time to relax with a new set of examples of uses that could be bloopers but may also actually be acceptable ways to spell or express a particular thought. Below I will give an example of the word, phrase, or expression as it appeared in an actual communication and you decide if it is a legitimate use of standard English or a blooper. The answers and explanations follow the list of examples.

From an article on big-box stores:

1. And the BBB was a cavernous linchpin, growing to encompass two floors and 92,000 square feet of space. Is this spelling of linchpin acceptable?

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2. From an article on how much water one should drink in a day:

Yes, you need to drink water and a lot of it. There’s just too many systems that depend on it. 

3. From an article in a major newspaper:

You will find that the store offers a variety of accouterments you might find helpful for sale.

4. An announcement for a campus event sent by e-mail:

You are invited to a lecture on Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. There will be a desert reception after the lecture.

5. From a description of a business undergoing some changes:

Currently the company is in the mist of a re-organization.

6. From a student e-mail:

I looked up other study abroad pork grams and I’d like to apply to this one.

7. From a student e-mail:

I can’t meet you today because I already have three meetings in arrow.

8. From a newsletter regarding international travel:

He had been driving for several hours in stressful road conditions, so he pulled over because he needed a brake for some water and sleep.

9. From a description of working conditions at a large company:

I always liked having a work cuticle to keep me focused on my tasks at hand.

10. From a conversation with a friend

Now that’s a point to home in on. (The person then stopped and asked “Or should it be hone in on?”)

11. From an end-of-year e-mail announcing outcomes of voting for faculty positions:

Prof. Jones was elected by acclimation.


1. Correct. You may be more familiar with the spelling “lynchpin.” It means “a pin that locks a shaft or axle into place” or “an element of an organization that is vital or essential to it.” 

2. Incorrect. It should read “There are just too many systems that depend on it.”  “There’s” which is a reduction of “there is” should precede a singular noun, as in “There’s a person with a mind of her own.” 

3. Correct. There are two acceptable spellings “accoutrements” and “accouterments.” “Accoutrements” are “additional items, particularly of dress or equipment.” As an avid student of the Romance languages, I have to admit that I find the second spelling a bit painful but also funny to pronounce phonetically. I have a personal bias toward the first spelling that freely acknowledges its French heritage.

4. Incorrect. The writer meant there will be desserts served after the lecture. A desert, of course, is a very dry zone with enormous amounts of sand. It may be helpful to remember the distinction by noting that “stressed” is “desserts” spelled backwards.

5. Incorrect. The writer, here, meant “in the midst of a re-organization.” This could be a function of an overactive automated spell checker. Another possibility is that the “d” in “midst” does not have a heavy phonetic presence and “midst” and “mist” can often be homonyms, depending on the pronunciation. 

6. Incorrect. The student intended to write “study abroad programs” but likely the predictive text function or spelling feature misfired here. This tech-produced blooper is just plain funny.

7. Incorrect. The student meant to write “three meeting in a row” but the spelling or auto-correction feature likely suggested “arrow” instead and by continuing to type, the student would have inadvertently accepted the automated suggestion.

8. Incorrect. This should be “He needed a break.” What’s humorous about this error is that it appears in the context of an automobile and driving which require “brakes.” 

9. Incorrect. This should be “cubicle” meaning “a defined work space”, while “cuticle” means generally “an outer covering” of some kind.

10. Either one of these will work. “To hone in on” means “to focus in on” a matter while “to home in on” means “to locate and move directly toward” something.

11. Incorrect. This should be “acclamation.” “Acclimation” refers to the process of becoming accustomed or acclimatized to a new condition. “Acclamation” means “expressing an enthusiastic kind of approval” and in the meaning intended in the sample sentence would indicate a vote received by a generally expressed approval, perhaps even clapping. 

Julia Palmer is an associate professor of modern languages at Hampden-Sydney College. Her email address is