Q&A: Pour vs pore

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Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week we’re pouring ourselves a cuppa and inspecting our pores…

Q: I had a great time while I was on holiday, pouring over newspapers and magazines…

A: Have they dried out yet?

Q: Sorry?

A: What did you pour on them? Water? Custard? Or maybe it was Prosecco…

Q: You’re being rather silly right now. I meant that I just spent a whole day lazing about on my bed reading through magazines and newspapers. It was bliss.

A: #bless

Q: No, we said “bliss”.

A: Right, yes. So, do you want the good news or the bad news?

Q: Or the fake news? Hahaha.

A: Hilarious.

Q: Okay, um… the good news?

A: The good news is that you had a lovely time that day reading those magazines and newspapers.

Q: The bad news?

A: You don’t “pour” over things like that – you “pore” over them.

Q: Really?

A: They’re not cornflakes.

Q: I feel like everything I’ve ever known is a lie.

A: Calm down drama queen. Allow us to explain.

Q: It’s like when Keanu Reeves discovers he’s in the matrix, you know, in that film… what’s it called?

A: The Matrix?

Q: Oh yes, that’s the one. I’m shocked. I assumed that I “pour” my attention, my heart, my soul into reading these things. I didn’t know that it was to do with “pores”.

A: You were expecting women walking about with clipboards and wearing white lab coats while talking about skincare?

Q: Don’t forget the glass sliding doors.

A: True. But, “pore” as a noun is one thing – but here we’re dealing with “to pore” as a verb. And “to pore” in that context means to study something closely or be absorbed in it. The noun comes from Latin “porus” – as in an opening, but the verb has an entirely different backstory – from Middle English “peer”.

Q: As in to be judged by your peers?

A: No, as in to peer at something intently.

Q: Ahhhh, okay. So that makes more sense I suppose.

A: It does.

Q: So just to recap… If it’s pouring outside and I’m not particularly time poor, I’ll pour myself a cuppa and pore over the newspapers, being careful to avoid my dog’s paws and munching on pawpaw, por favor!

A: It left the tracks at the end somewhat, but yes, we think you’ve understood it.

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!


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