Malapropism Exposed!

It’s old news that the racehorse I’ll Have Another, primed to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, was retired just before the June 9, 2012, Belmont Stakes when he developed tendonitis. What remains of interest to die-hard Wordies is a reporter’s correction of a verbal lapse in a day when too many journalists let a misusage slide by without a peep.

The reporter? Mike Pesca, who on NPR’s All Things Considered spliced into his segment a snippet of a chat with Doug O’Neill, the would-be Triple Crowner’s trainer. At one point O’Neill served up a malapropism* (boldfaced so it’s easy to spot):

Whether you’re a human or an equine athlete, when you give 110 percent every time you step in the court or run the track, you’re suspect to injury.

Said Pesca as he continued his broadcast:

Of course, he meant subject to injury, but what he’s saying there is that, through frequent use, you increase the odds of getting hurt.

What is noteworthy isn’t that O’Neill got a word wrong (he works with horses, not English majors) but that Pesca told listeners what O’Neill meant to say – surely not to embarrass the trainer but simply to clarify the sentence. Confusing one seven-letter word with another is of no great import, but a journalist who cares enough to set it right deseves our applause.

*For more on malapropisms, go the WTF? menu and select WTF? Case 3.

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