Friday, October 12, 2007

Nip It in the Butt

I alluded to eggcorns in the last entry, and wouldn't you know it, I came across another one within hours:

“The Michigan House and Senate must nip the budget crisis in the butt, not pass a temporary measure that only defers the problem.”

I used to have a feisty Westie named McDuff. My brother used to tease the dog when McDuff was a puppy, so there was no love lost between them. In fact, we used to encourage McDuff’s frequent nipping attacks, everyone hollering, “Bite him on the butt!”

I bring this up only because it gives some insight into why someone might hear nip it in the bud and think that it alluded to a terrier snapping at someone’s glutes. The essential problem is that it then refers to action: an attack on the part of the animal and a retreat on the part of the victim.

In contrast, nip it in the bud actually means to stop something before it becomes serious or significant. It was originally a gardening term, and it refers to removing or severing a bud by pinching or snipping it off. Too many buds on the same stalk lead to inferior flowers or plants, so this is a form of botanical birth control.

Oh, oh . . . I hear a scary noise outside my window coming from the garden. I’m starting to shutter.

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