Give Us A Break And Put The Brakes On

I thought put the brakes on was an obvious automotive idiom and that everyone would be able to spell it correctly. Then I opened my eyes and realised that some people are writing put the breaks on instead. Oh dear.

Picture: Getty Images

There's no room for argument here: put the breaks on is flat-out wrong, and essentially nonsensical when you think about it. Brakes is also the easier-to-spell of these two identical-sounding words, so you might assume it would be the first choice for everyone. That assumption would, sadly, be incorrect.

If you're in the habit of making this mistake, it's time to break the habit. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    You mean people get this wrong?

    I know I shouldn't be surprised but I still kinda am......

    Can we do ones where people get the saying wrong, ie:

      Like how all the Aussie kids are now pretending to be Yanks by saying "zee" instead of "zed" and "bay-ta" instead of "bee-ta" ?

        Whilst they're not sayings, I still agree with you xD

        I've never heard "beta" pronounced "bee-ta". And as for "zee", I know it's an Americanism but it's one of the few times that it actually makes more sense. I mean, you don't pronounce B as "bed", G as "ged", P as "ped", T as "ted", V as "ved", etc...

          Yeah, bee-ta is the correct English/Aussie pronunciation. It's the 2nd letter of the Greek alphabet β, so it's pronounced closer to how a Greek would say it. Bay-ta is an Americanism!

          As for Z, it also comes from the Greek Zeta, and pretty much every European language is a variation of zeta/zed/zet/zede/zett and only odd one out is the US with zee. Even the Japanese say Dragonball Zetto, and not Dragonball Zee.

        My daughter is 4, and she's picked up the whole "zee" thing from Sesame Street I guess plus other American kids shows.

        She said it the other day, and I corrected her, telling her "No sweetie, it's 'Zed', not 'Zee'". She just shrugged her shoulders and with a straight face, looked at me and said "Well, it's close enough".

        Last edited 04/08/14 5:54 pm

    tomaytoes tomatoes, potaytoes potahtos, let's call the whole thing off.....8-)

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