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Based Off Is Off Base
Enough is enough. It’s time to blow the whistle on an obnoxious faux idiom that has the popular culture under its spell. The offending usage is based off and its alternate form, based off of.
Both are everywhere. One hears and sees them constantly over the airwaves, in print, and online. A Google search yields these nauseous nuggets: “Dr.
House is based off of Sherlock Holmes.” “Their favorite classic movies are based off old fairy tales.” “It’s
basically a stretched out HTC One M8, which is what the tablet is based off of.” There are hundreds more.
Everyone knows the correct phrase, based on, which has been around forever. But somehow, on became off, or worse, off of—a compound preposition that all English authorities reject as substandard.
The logical conclusion is that anyone who says “based off” doesn’t know what based means. As a verb, to base means
“to form a foundation for.” The noun base refers to the underlying part that something rests on, not off.
The words base and basis are closely related and sometimes synonymous. Would anybody say, “The board meets off a daily
There’s really no excuse for based off. Whoever coined it was just fooling around or talking too fast. It subsequently caught on with other
knuckleheads, and now there are those who defend its legitimacy.
But based off is another example of what might be called “Frankenstein formations.” You know, grab a part from here, another part from
over there, and stitch them together to create a monstrously unsuitable word or phrase. Witness how the unholy merging of regardless and irrespective begat irregardless, a gruesome beast that even pedants with pitchforks can’t drive from the countryside.
Today’s high schools and colleges turn out students with negligible language skills, and the result is heedless writing and speech. Once upon a time,
people who knew their pronouns said, “You and I should invite her and her husband for dinner.” Now you’re more likely to hear, “You
and me should invite she and her husband for dinner.” For some perverse reason, those who don’t watch their language tend to say things that
are the precise opposite of correct.
That would seem to explain how based on became based off.
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
Two of the options in each sentence below are correct. Can you identify the “Frankenstein formation”?
1. I am calling in regards to/as regards/in regard to the job opening.
2. The paragraph comprises/is comprised of/is composed of three sentences.
3. The novel centers on/revolves around/centers around marriage in the eighteenth century.
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We researched the leading reference books on American English grammar and punctuation including The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Bernstein’s The Careful Writer, and many others. As before, we will provide rules, guidance, and examples based on areas of general agreement among these authorities. Where the authorities differ, we will emphasize guidance and provide options to follow based on your purpose in writing, with this general advice: be consistent.
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Spelling Doesn't Matter
Aoccdrnig to extnesvie rseeacrh conudcetd at Oxofrd Uinervtisy in Enlgnad, it deosn't raelly mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae.
The rset can be in a toatl mses and you usulaly can sitll raed it
wouthit much porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.
Jsut thnik a momnet abuot all the tmie you and I watesed laernnig how to splel wrods croreclty!
p.s. Nedslees to say, tihs lteter has not been splel cehkecd.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. The phrase in regards to is nonstandard.
2. The phrase is comprised of is incorrect. The word comprise means “to be composed of,” so “comprised of” would mean “composed of-of.”
3. The phrase centers around is nonstandard.
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.