de-served desserts

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jan 5 17:29:41 UTC 2008

At 1/4/2008 08:30 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>"just desserts" has an ecdb entry:
>(one of the comments mentions "just deserves", which doesn't yet have
>an entry.)
>i'm beginning to wonder whether there's any point in trying to
>maintain the ecdb, when people don't consult it.

Irregardless, I wouldn't have looked at the eggcorn data base since,
in my ignorance, I have always assumed (presumably without ever
having both read and imprinted it!) that the expression was "just desserts".

After all, that's how it's pronounced, and a dessert is what one
receives if one has been good and eaten one's Brussels sprouts (oops
-- that was a smile one gets, from Polly).  If one has been bad, one
gets no dessert, or perhaps one's gruel (gruel n. sense 4.) instead
of ice cream.

And dessert is de-'sert, as in the expression, and is a noun. [Accent
mark before accented syllable.]  Desert is either de-'sert, a verb,
to leave in the lurch, which, although pronounced like dessert, can't
be right because a noun is required -- or 'des-ert, the kind of
"desolate, barren region, waterless and treeless" through which the
exiles in the Forest of Arden wandered,* which, although a noun,
would not be a just reward.

* OED; As You Like It, passim.


P.S.  It wasn't until a few days ago that, having been informed I've
been wrong my whole life, I looked in a dictionary and found desert
n.1., pronounced identically to dessert.

P.P.S.  I notice that the OED pronunciation of the second syllables
of both desert n.2 = wilderness ("dEz at t) and desert n.1 = deserving
(dI"z3;t) lack an "r" sound, which I have (I think).  [I hope the
phonetic symbols come through.]


The American Dialect Society -

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