fount » font

Chiefly in:   font of knowledge , font of wisdom

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • “She was a font of wisdom and good sense.” (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.)

The noun “knowledge” in the heading stands in for a variety of abstract nouns.

Treated at some length in my Language Log piece of 28 March 2005, “Chomping at the Font”. The noun “font”, as in “baptismal font” and “type font” and as a variant of poetic and metaphorical “fount” ’source, repository’, has been steadily gaining on metaphorical “fount”; this is a replacement of a less frequent and more specialized word by a more frequent phonologically similar word that makes sense in the context.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/03/29 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Claire Pedersen , 2005/03/30 at 12:41 pm

    “Chomping at the font” makes sense to some people? Chomping at the bit I understand, but we never champ, cos champ is a field, isn’t it?

  2. 2

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/03/30 at 4:24 pm

    In response to Claire Pedersen: the title of my Language Log posting, “Chomping at the font”, is a little joke. The posting is about both “chomping at the bit” and “font of knowledge”.

    But about “champing at the bit”: people who have “chomp” here argue, quite reasonably, that it makes sense and “champ” would not. In addition, “chomp” is what they’ve heard and read. But this is the way of the best eggcorns: they really do make more sense than their historical precedents, and as a result they tend to spread. (See my LL posting for evidence that “champ” is indeed the historical precedent.) Eventually, people can’t believe that the expression could have been anything else. I tend to feel this way about “hailed into court” myself.

    Both “chomp at the bit” and “font of knowledge” were marked as “nearly mainstream”. So if you say/write these things, I’m not going to be telling you to change. Many eggcorns are definitely minority usages and still count as “wrong” in some sense, but some are now well established, and only a curmudgeon would object to them.

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