Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Slight Problem

The headline (Straits Times, 21 November 2009) is wrong: make it Sleight of hand.  The expression means ‘skilful movements of [the] hand that other people cannot see’ (Oxford) — in this case the France striker Thierry Henry’s main de Dieu (‘hand of God’), which cost Ireland its place in next year’s football World Cup.

Slight and sleight are pronounced alike, so the misspelling — assuming it was not a weak attempt at a pun — is perhaps understandable.  The formal equivalent of sleight of hand is the French leger de main.

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