Sorry I bought it up!

Posted by on April 22, 2009

© Rolphoto / Fotolia.comI was recently visiting a primary school and had the great pleasure of sitting in on an assembly that was to be a celebration of some of the children’s fantastic work. It was also a chance for the pupils to bring in things to show to their peers as well. In a nice clear voice, the teacher presiding over the event announced “OK, children, let’s see some of the wonderful things you’ve bought in for us to see”.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Did she just say ‘bought’, surely not! Calming down and assuring myself that I had simply heard wrong, I reabsorbed myself in the exhibition. Several minutes later the teacher again repeated to a young girl “And what have you bought in for us to see”?

Now, this has to be one the biggest language crimes that can be committed. The offender here means to use the word ‘brought’ but instead offers the completely different word ‘bought’. The really galling thing is that this was coming from someone who should patently know better. But she is far from alone.

The sister crime to this is the use of ‘brought’ when the speaker means ‘bought’. ‘Where did you get those?” you might ask. “Oh, I brought those from that shop on the High Street!”

In my 10 years in the UK I have covertly carried out a personal survey to see how many people misuse these two words. I had never experienced this peculiar habit before reaching the shores of England. My wildly less-than-scientific study would suggest that about 20% of people use the word ‘bought’ when they clearly mean ‘brought’ and vice versa. What seems to be further shocking is that no one seems to mind! Oddly, few people seem to use both words incorrectly. It seems much more likely that they use one of these words to cover both situations – thus getting it right 50% of the time. Could it simply be that these people are so lackadaisical in their approach to speech that they couldn’t be bothered to learn the correct usage of both?

Most of you reading this will be thinking ‘yes, I hear people say that all the time’, but do you ever correct them? It’s almost so commonplace that you somehow feel like it would be cruel to point out the foible. Sorry I bought it up!

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