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UD Keeps Seeing Writers Use …

weary when they mean wary, as in this headline in the Seattle University Spectator:

Professors weary of student Facebook friends

The article’s about how they’re cautious, not tired. It’s a strange mistake to make, if you ask me. Any theories?

Margaret Soltan, May 6, 2009 4:06PM
Posted in: Little Ick

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6 Responses to “UD Keeps Seeing Writers Use …”

  1. RJO Says:

    Sounds like a question for the folks at Language Log. My guess is that in some dialects the two words are homophones (I’m sure that’s true), and they may be in the process of merging elsewhere. Lot’s of people probably can’t hear them as different.

  2. Fretful Porpentine Says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve taught in the Midwest and the deep South, and seen it in student papers in both places. If it is dialectal, there must be more than one dialect involved. (Curiously, I have never seen it the other way around; students do not write "wary" when they mean "weary.")

  3. LY/PauvrePlume Says:

    Personally, I think it could also have a little something to do with the pesky "leery" — synonymous for "wary." So, I think students might commit some understandable (?) hybrid of the two.

  4. Cassandra Says:

    I think you’re defiantly taking for granite that people (especially undergraduates) actually know the words and phrases they use everyday.

    Anyone who has taught at a school of less than selective quality knows that the 2 malapropisms I used above are but 2 drops in the bucket of what we see on a daily basis.

    The cause: Most undergraduates only read poorly edited drivel and wouldn’t know good writing if they actually performed it by accident. They have little interest and appreciation for good writing, learning new words, or erudition in general. Not all of them (thankfully), but enough to make writing instructors drink heavily at paper-grading time.

  5. Julia Says:

    People are stupid.

    OK, that’s probably a bit harsh, but I’m in the midst of editing/proofreading a nursing textbook and am weary (not wary!) of being continually amazed at how many people manage to get a Ph.D. (which requires writing a dissertation, no?) without ever learning basic grammar, spelling, or sentence structure.

  6. Mr Punch Says:

    Apart from the fact that the two words themselves are homophones for some, note that "wear" is pronounced like the first syllable of "wary," whereas "war" is not — so the spelling "sounds" right, and of course spellcheck won’t catch it.

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