After more than 13 years of chronicling goofs that speakers of English often make, Paul Brians would have every right to scold when he encounters someone who misuses the phrase “sour grapes” or mixes up foul and fowl.
But the author of the website Common Errors in English Usage is reluctant to nag—even if he has amassed a gargantuan compendium of language blunders, with roughly 1,750 annotated entries.
“The way I like to approach usage,” he says in an interview, “is being that person who leans over the table and whispers to you, ‘You know, you’ve got a little spinach in your teeth.’ It’s not knocking you over the head and saying, ‘You dummkopf.’ It’s trying to help you out.”
Hence the straightforward, often wry tone of a site that he says has drawn more than 13 million visitors since its inception. “A chicken is a fowl,”the poultry-related entry reads. “A poke in the eye is a foul.”