1. A violation of grammatical rules or of the approved idiomatic usage of language
2. Any impropriety or incongruity. –sol’e-cist n. –sol’e-cis-tic or sol-e-sis-it-cal adj.
—Webster Comprehensive Dictionary International Edition. Chicago: Ferguson, 2001.
—H.W. Fowler. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Second Edition. Revised and edited by Sir Ernest Gowers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.
BLOGGIN’ JOHN COMMENTS
"A solecism" is nothing more that a formal term for such classroom expressions as these: “usage mistake" • "mechanical error" • "bad grammar."
Here are the names of some typical solecisms, which many of us have seen before written by our English teachers in red ink in the margins of our returned papers:
run on sentence • comma splice • sentence fragment • verb tense error • misplaced modifier • faulty parallelism • dangling modifier • wrong word • mixed metaphor • unidiomatic expression • pronoun antecedent • incorrect spelling • and any number of scratched out or inserted punctuation marks : ; ? ' " " -- - ( ) . . . [ ] !
--Judy Jones & William Wilson. An Incomplete Education
New York: Ballentine, 1987, p. 622.
The answers to the puzzles follow. Have fun!
Seven Phrases You May Not Even Know You Write Wrong1. bated breath -- That is, shortened--as in abate. No entrapment here.
2. pore over – What you do to a manuscript. It’s not the same as what you do to a stack of pancakes.
3. straitjacket – Not “without any curves or twists,” but “narrow,
constricting,” as in Strait of Gibraltar. Likewise, “the strait and narrow” (a famous redundancy), “strait is the gate.”
4. harebrained – Ditto, harelip.
5. test your mettle – Unless you’re at the pig-iron auction.
6. Chaise longue – You still want one poolside, but it’s a “long chair,” not a lounge.
7. to the manner born– It’s all in the execution, not in the family real estate.
ANSWERS TO THE PUZZLES
1. Correct: bated breath
Incorrect: baited breath
2. Correct: pore over
Incorrect: pour over
3. Correct: straitjacket
4. Correct: harebrained
5. Correct: test your mettle
Incorrect: test your metal
6. Correct: Chaise longue See .
Incorrect: Chaise lounge
7. Correct: to the manner born See .
Incorrect: to the manor born
 Chaise longue. There are two issues that haunt chaise longue (a couchlike chair).
- One involves spelling. The second word of chaise longue is frequently misspelled l-o-u-n-g-e, echoing the sound of “round”).
- The second issue concerns pronunciation. Chaise longue, is pronounced "shayz long." That's right--the second word in the phrase is pronounced "long." Look carefully at the word's spelling: l-o-n-g-u-e. Note that if you drop the final letters,"ue," you will see "l-o-n-g," a bold clue to the word's correct pronunciation, "long."
 To the manner born This next piece, from the online "Mavens" at Random House, explains in thorough detail the reasons why using "manner" is standard, and "manor" is not.
- The first thing to note is that this is not some random phrase which we have to puzzle out, but a Literary Allusion, from . . . Shakespeare. In Hamlet, when the prince is observing the drunkenness common at Elsinore, he complains, "But to my mind--though I am native here,/And to the manner born--it is a custom/More honor'd in the the breach than the observance" (Hamlet I.iv.14ff).
- What Hamlet meant here is that he is destined or accustomed from birth to the practice of heavy drinking. The phrase is often used in a sense like this ('accustomed to (a specified practice) since birth', that is), or often somewhat more broadly meaning 'admirably well suited for (something specified)'.
- The common variant to the manor born is found chiefly in the sense 'being a member of the upper class', that is, born on a landed estate. Since the "manor" variant is perfectly sensible (more sensible in this meaning than the "manner" version, in fact) and is phonetically identical to the Shakespearean original, it is no surprise that this has become widespread. An example: "Kay...should have got married quietly in City Hall, instead of making Harald, who was not to the manor born, try to carry off a wedding in J.P. Morgan's church" (Mary McCarthy, The Group). A more recent example: "I get tired of actors 'to the manor born' getting all the publicity at the expense of other players who put their heart and grueling hard work into creating an inspiring performance" (Entertainment Weekly, 1999).
- One may regard this sort of thing in several ways. It could be considered a punning use, which is possible only if you think that the writer knows his or her Shakespeare and is being deliberate. It could be considered an error, if you think that the writer is ignorant of Shakespeare. Or, you could consider it a new use in a different sense from the original. Most commentators call it a mistake.--The Mavens' Word of the Day [http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19990721]