The Grammarphobia Blog

Now, mea culpa, I repent

Q: I’m one of your BIG FANS and also President of Nitpickers Anonymous. So I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard you say on WNYC “as far as” without a following verb. And not once, but TWICE! As in, “As far as your question, I’m afraid I can’t answer that.” I was calmly driving along, listening to you on the radio, when all of a sudden I nearly drove into a tree! Tell me it isn’t so.

A: Mea culpa!

You are absolutely right. I misspoke. I should have said, “As for your question…” or “As far as your question goes…” and I mistakenly conflated the two.

That wasn’t the first time (as I’ve been told).

One of the perils and terrors of live radio is that I have to think a couple of sentences ahead, and meanwhile MY MOUTH IS STILL WORKING! Always a dangerous situation.

I will try harder in the future.

By the way, “mea culpa,” from the post-classical Latin for “through my own fault,” has been used in English since the early 13th century to express one’s guilt or responsibility for an error.

Here’s an example from Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde (circa 1385): “Al have I been rebel in myn entente: / Now, MEA CULPA, lord! I me repent.”

Meanwhile, thanks for listening, and for nitpicking.

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