The Grammarphobia Blog

A “pitchy” usage

Q: I’m a fan of “American Idol,” but the judges use a word on the show that drives me crazy. When they want to tell someone that he’s singing off pitch, they tell him that he’s a little pitchy. This can’t be right, can it?

A: I don’t watch “American Idol,” and look what I missed! I’ve never heard or seen “pitchy” used in this way. In The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, “pitchy” is defined as covered with pitch (something like tar) or as the color of pitch.

Usually singing or playing that’s off key is described as either sharp (too high) or flat (too low). I suppose “pitchy” might come in handy if you can’t tell which.

I just Googled “pitchy” and came up with 332,000 hits—most of them, it seems, about singing, not roofing. Well, “pitchy” still sounds lame to me, but maybe it has legs!

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