A.Word.A.Day — hoi polloi

by Limbic on November 16, 2006

A.Word.A.Day has a lovely line about pedantry in today’s dispatch:

hoi polloi (hoi puh-LOI) noun

The common people, the masses.

[From Greek hoi polloi (the many).]

The phrase is often mistakenly used to refer to the elite or the snobbish, quite opposite of what it really means. That usage arises probably from the first part sounding similar to “high” or from confusion with the term hoity toity.

The term often appears as “the hoi polloi”. Some pedants object to that construction, claiming “the” is already part of the term. If you find such people, tell them to go study gebra and drink cohol.

-Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)

“Fans were delighted to see their heroes riding with the hoi polloi.” Tom Parfitt; Spartak in Subway Sprint; Guardian (London, UK); Nov 1, 2006.

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