Principled readers pour over books only when bored to tears

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WORD IN THE HAND: PORING

Principled readers pour over books only when bored to tears

A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd

Deputy features editor: Sunday Times

I know I can be horribly judgmental at times, and I don’t mean this to be one of those times, but I could not suppress a shudder while reading a book by a South Africa-born author in which scholars are “pouring” over their books.

This phrase conjured up images of bespectacled students weeping buckets over illuminating texts that moved them to tears, which would be commendable except that the word that should have been used here was “poring”.

The word “pore” — not the noun meaning a hole in the skin but the verb meaning “to gaze intently; to look with close and steady attention or examination” — is of unknown origin, says the Online Etymology Dictionary. It dates back to the early 1200s and is thought to stem from the Nordic-derived Old English word purian, meaning to investigate or examine...

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