June 23, 2008

Pored stiff

This is one of those fine points that shows up in just about all the grammar books, so I can only assume that the persistence of the error results from not enough people reading those books.

So I add my voice to the chorus warning about the confusion of pore with pour.

Never mind the pores on your face.* This "pore" is a verb. It means to stare or study intently.

Its homophone, "pour," (to cause a liquid to flow) is often used when "pore" is meant. You can't "pour over a document" unless you are emptying your glass onto its pages.

The confusion is understandable, since both words come from the Middle English pouren. Since our 14th-century predecessors were notoriously lax in their spelling, it's a wonder there's a distinction at all.

Now that I have finished poring over my dictionaries and usage manuals, I'm going to pour a cup of tea.

* — OK, since you asked, the noun "pore"—meaning the openings in your skin that get clogged with oil and turn to pimples—comes from the Greek poros, meaning passage.

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