Pardon me while I gargle with earthworms

A sports Web site says folks at Mr. Rewrite's alma mater are waiting with baited breath to learn whether a top basketball recruit will be academically eligible to play.

Uh, unless someone is gargling with sardines instead of Listerine the author meant to say bated breath.

Drawing from the previous incarnation of this site, Mr. Rewrite offers this explanation: 

Bated comes from bate, which means to lessen. Bryan A. Garner (cue angelic chorus) says the idea is that breath is abated.

Bait is, well, bait -- something that lures or traps. It also is a verb meaning to make an unjust or malicious attack

Many of those paid to know better stink when it comes to bated/baited breath. Roughly a third of references on Google News say baited breath instead of bated breath.

1 comment:

Dan Day said...

A teacher had a favorite pun years ago. "I'm waiting with a worm on my tongue," she tell a slow-to-respond student. "Baited breath."