May 14, 2009

Language Tips: breach/breech & off of

Posted in breach/breech, off of at 7:38 am by dlseltzer

Sighting 1:

Hi Deb,
For all your WLUT readers out there with children – Brian Cleary has written a series of children’s books on the topic that are hysterical and, I think, grammatically correct. My daughters really enjoy them, and so do I. I have actually learned quite a lot from reading them. The cover of one of the books is attached. Thanks, Katie

Sighting 2:


(enough said.)

Today, we have two brief tips.

Tip 1: Breech or breach

Came across this recently:

‘This study will fill a breech in knowledge…’

Well, not so much. With any luck, the research will fill a breach in knowledge…Breech refers to the rear of something. It most commonly refers to one’s rear end or a baby delivered feet or rear first (i.e., breech birth). Breach, on the other hand, means an opening or break. It is used in the example above to mean gap. One way to remember this is that breach is related to break, and both are spelled with ea. You don’t want to be breaking any babies, so the correct word would be breech when talking about the delivery of an infant.

However, there is a bigger issue to consider when reading the phrase cited above: Why use the word ‘breach’ at all? It is often confused with breech, and it is not the most accessible word around. Instead of using breach to mean gap, why not use the word ‘gap‘ itself?

‘This study will fill a gap in knowledge…’

Ah, much better.

Tip 2: Off of or off

Hey you, get off of my cloud.

Can’t take my eyes off of you.

With all due respect to the Rolling Stones and Frankie Valli, to be grammatically correct, the above lyrics should read:

Hey you, get off my cloud.

Can’t take my eyes off you.

The off of construction is wrong and should never be used in formal writing. The Columbia Journalism Review describes the usage as barbaric. Off is the opposite of on, and you would never use the word ‘on’ with of (e.g., You were always on of my mind-apologies to Elvis, Willie, and others); therefore, you should never use off with of.

And while we are at it, never use of with should:

I should of done it WRONG

I should have done it. RIGHT

That’s it.


1 Comment »

  1. dlseltzer said,

    Alan wrote:

    One reason to use the word breach is that it’s common terminology in law, as in breach of contract, breach of legal obligations, etc, which has been imported into everyday usage.

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