Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: straitlaced.

“Straitlaced” (= rigidly narrow in moral matters; prudish) referred originally, in the 16th century, to a tightly laced corset — “strait” meaning “narrow” or “closely fitting.” Over time, writers have forgotten the etymology (or they never learned it in the first place) and have confused “strait” with “straight.” Hence the erroneous form *”straightlaced” — e.g.: o “He is also straightlaced [read ‘straitlaced’], though a much more interesting person than Sgt. Friday.” Mike Klis, “Girardi Turning Wednesdays into Big Bat Nights,” Gaz. Telegraph (Colo. Springs), 11 May 1995, at C1. o “Perhaps this city is just too straightlaced [read ‘straitlaced’] to learn how bikes and cars can coexist.” Philip Lerman, “Get It in Gear, Washington!” Wash. Post, 3 Aug. 1997, at C1. Once hyphenated, the term is now solid. Language-Change Index — *”straightlaced” for “straitlaced”: Stage 3. *Invariably inferior forms. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “People who can’t spell look bad because, as we can correctly assume, that is probably not the only thing they can’t do. Besides, bad spelling is obviously a sign of not reading much, for anyone who reads would have seen the misspelled words written correctly thousands of times.” S. Morris Engel, Fallacies and Pitfalls of Language: The Language Trap 18 (1994).
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