“They got their just deserts” or “their just desserts?” Wordsmithing with Bryan Garner . . .

IMG_0005 Garner 2In a recent blog posting in his “Usage Tip of the Day,” American etymologist Bryan Garner explains how to use the term “just deserts.”

Garner notes that the term, which means “the treatment one deserves,” is “occasionally misrendered ‘just desserts.’ Sometimes, of course, it’s a playful pun . . . . But sometimes it’s sloppiness or pure ignorance — e.g. ‘The deliciously wicked Francis Urquhart gets his just desserts [should read “just deserts”] in this third installment of the story’ ” (“Best Bets,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis, 21 Feb. 1997, E2).

Garner also notes that in the above example, “the adverb ‘deliciously’ creates a nonsensical echo in the word ‘desserts.’ ” Too bad that this word play was based on an error in usage.

Using “just desserts” is one error that I’ve made in conversation many times, in the past. Have you done so, as well?

It’s good to know what the correct version is, despite my susceptibility to chocolate and cake!

What are your linguistic or grammatical bugbears? Please share them with me and I’ll use them in upcoming postings.

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