Q&A: Pour vs pore

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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