Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

A newspaper headline blared ESCAPEE CAPTURED AFTER 10 DAYS ON THE LAMB. The message to be conveyed was not meant to be that the convict rode a sheep for 10 days but, rather, that he was on the lam, “a hurried flight from the law.”

Here are some other hilariously misspelled headlines howlers:

AUTHORITIES REGISTER

BIGGEST HEROINE BUST

MAN BOOKED FOR

WRECKLESS DRIVING

SLUM RAISING PLAN

STRONGLY ASSAILED

U.N. PEACEKEEPERS REIGN

IN VIOLENCE IN LIBERIA

SENATE PANEL AGREES

TO MUCH SEX ON TELEVISION

GIRLS SEEK BIRTHS

ON U.S. TRACK TEAM

Here’s a game to whet your appetite — or (great expectorations!) wet your appetite — for spelling challenges.

The phrases below may be as familiar to you as your old stamping — or is it stomping? — grounds, but when it comes to spelling them, you may be in dire straights — or is it dire straits? Like the cat that ate some cheese and then breathed into the mouse hole, I’m sure that you’re waiting with baited breath — or should that be bated breath? — and chomping — or perhaps champing? — at the bit.

May your answers and mine jibe — or maybe jive? — completely so that you don’t miss any by a hare’s breath — or hare’s breadth? or hair’s breath? or hair’s breadth? Don’t let the challenge faze — or phase — you.

Homophones and sound-alikes can often reek — or is it wreck or wreak? — havoc on our choice of words. In each expression that follows, choose the preferred spelling. Answers repose at the end of this column.

1. anchors away/aweigh 2. to wait with baited/bated breath 3. to grin and bare/bear it 4. sound bite/byte 5. bloc/block voting 6. a ceded/seeded player 7. champing/chomping at the bit 8. a full complement/compliment of 9. to strike a responsive chord/cord 10. just deserts/desserts 11. doesn’t faze/phase me 12. to have a flair/flare for 13. foul/fowl weather 14. hail/hale and hardy/hearty 15. a hair’s/hare’s breadth/breath 16. a seamless hole/whole 17. a friend in need is a friend in deed/indeed 18. it doesn’t jibe/jive 19. on the lam/lamb 20. to the manner/manor born/borne 21. marshal/martial law 22. to test one’s medal/meddle/metal/mettle 23. might/mite and mane/main 24. beyond the pale/pail 25. to peak/peek/pique one’s interest 26. pi/pie in the sky 27. pidgin/pigeon English 28. plain/plane geometry 29. to pore/pour over an article 30. praying/preying mantis 31. a matter of principal/principle 32. rack/wrack one’s brain 33. to give free rain/reign/rein 34. raise/raze Cain/cane 35. to pay rapped/rapt/wrapped attention 36. with reckless/wreckless abandon 37. to reek/wreak/wreck havoc 38. right/rite/write of passage 39. a shoe-/shoo-in 40. to sic/sick the dog on someone 41. sleight/slight of hand 42. spit and/spitting image 43. the old stamping/stomping grounds 44. to stanch/staunch the flow 45. dire straights/straits 46. a toe-/tow-headed youth 47. to toe/tow the line 48. to swear like a trooper/trouper 49. all in vain/vane/vein 50. to wet/whet one’s appetite

Answers 1. aweigh 2. bated 3. bear 4. bite 5. bloc 6. seeded 7. champing or chomping 8. complement 9. chord 10. deserts 11. faze 12. flair 13. foul 14. hale/hearty 15. hair’s breadth 16. whole 17. indeed 18. jibe 19. lam 20. manner born 21. martial 22. mettle 23. might/main 24. pale 25. pique 26. pie 27. pidgin 28. plane 29. pore 30. praying 31. principle 32. rack 33. rein 34. raise Cain 35. rapt 36. reckless 37. wreak 38. rite 39. shoo- 40. sic 41. sleight 42. spitting 43. stamping 44. stanch 45. straits 46. tow 47. toe 48. trouper 49. vain 50. whet

Please send your questions and comments about language to richard.lederer@utsandiego.com