Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

pour a cup of coffee, and pore over this post

with 12 comments

I received a glossy full-color advertisement in the mail a couple of days ago proclaiming something to the effect that “our researchers have poured over millions of pages to bring you this incredible find.”

Really? What did they pour over the pages? Maple syrup, maybe, or transmission fluid, or shampoo?

The researchers didn’t pour: They pored. But wait, you say. A pore is a little bitty hole in something, like the pores in your skin that pour out sweat when you play tennis. Surely the researchers weren’t poking holes in their books, so that can’t be right.

Yes, it is. The verb form of pore means “to scrutinize,” or “to read or study intently.” It’s always used with the word over. So:

“Pinky poured fuel oil and fertilizer into the giant bomb while the Brain pored over the final adjustments to the timing mechanism.”

“As Scarlett poured herself into her red dress and Rhett poured champagne, they silently pored over their very different visions of the future.”

Written by tiffanytaylor

2006 Sep 12 at 07:08

12 Responses

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  1. Tiffany – thanks for this poor man’s guide to grammar. Funny stuff.


    2006 Sep 12 at 10:27

  2. Of course, in some parts of the U.S., including close to wear I live, “poor,” and “pore” (and “pour”) are all pronounced the same way, which could conceivably add to the confusion. (“I’m a pore man, barkeep, so pour me a free one.”)


    2006 Sep 12 at 21:51

  3. Gotta love this language.


    2006 Nov 2 at 14:15

  4. If both “pore” and “pour” come from the Middle English “pouren”, then perhaps “pouren” meant to cover closely, to flow across, or flow over very closely, as a syrup would pour over a cake, filling the interstices, or as a downpour would flow over the ground, filling every tiny crevice and hole, leaving no spot untouched.

    Poring over skin, visually, one finds pores. Pouring over skin, with oil, one fills pores. Or sweat can pour from pores.

    Rather than make people wrong for interchanging these verbs, perhaps Merriam Webster should let us evolve to allow these as equivalents, similar to: “aye” and “ay”; “aught” and “ought”; “staunch” and “stanch”; and many others.

    English is full of examples of a “mistake” becoming so widespread that it becomes common usage and then an allowable alternative form.

    Why cannot some of us “pour over” our books, while others of you “pore over” your books? We both know what each other means. Where is the confusion?

    I suspect much of this preservation of “correctness” is brought on by a fondness for feeling “wholier” than thou.

    Poor holes,

    from one less than, …


    2007 Jun 19 at 11:22

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