I’ve often thought all kinds of people should be asked to take the same oath doctors do – First, do no harm. Parents, spouses, friends, teachers. Book coaches and editors. We all need to be reminded.
One of the challenges of being a book coach or an editor is overcorrecting. Writers tend to be a sensitive bunch. So I try to check – even when I’m sure I’m right. It’s so easy to get it wrong.
Usually, I see phrases people have heard but haven’t seen written. Like – All of the sudden. Escape goat. To all intensive purposes. Hunger pains.
I get it.
Sometimes these expressions have become so common they’re accepted.
So whenever I highlight one of these phrases, I always add – Please check.
But there’s one expression I’ve been sure about, maybe a little smug about – until today.
"I could feel the pit growing in my stomach."
This has come up often enough that I have a standard comment.
Using a light touch, I’ve explained that pits don’t grow in stomachs. The expression is figurative. Like – from the bottom of my heart. Off the top of my head. In the pit of my stomach.
But today, in the New York Times, of all places, I saw – “I felt a pit in my belly.”
Had stomach/belly pits sneaked into common usage, and I was unaware?
Did I need to write to every author I’d worked with and apologize for leading them astray?
Before I made another mistake - I looked it up.
And there from Professor Paul Brians’ book Common Errors in English Usage, he explains:
pit in my stomach
“Just as you can love someone from the bottom of your heart, you can also experience a sensation of dread in the pit (bottom) of your stomach. I don’t know whether people who mangle this common expression into ‘pit in my stomach’ envision an ulcer, an irritating peach pit they’ve swallowed or are thinking of the pyloric sphincter; but they’ve got it wrong.”
A little heavier on biology than I usually go. But reassuring.
So. In case you saw it in today's paper, too - by in large, this should give you great piece of mind.
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