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March 17, 2009

Hairbrained or Harebrained?

The phrase comes from a comparison to a rabbit's brain but many today believe the term is "hairbrained."

I'd bet you a dime that 19 out of 20 people under 30 think "hairbrained" is correct.

We could always crowdsource it: Google returns 2,320,000 results for "harebrained" and 2,820,000 for "hairbrained."

nuf sed*

*My rap name


Note added at 6:04 p.m. today: Reader Randee pointed out after the post went up that the two feature words — "harebrained" and "hairbrained" — are not hyphenated, contrary to how I originally had them.

My crack punctuation team is out back in the woodshed right now, receiving a lesson.

March 17, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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What the hell -- who screwed up that?
I mean, that upp?
I meen, up?
I mean, mean?

Posted by: Flautist | Mar 17, 2009 5:48:48 PM

nuf sed?
You mean it's not T Dolt?
T Mill?
Joe Ice Stitty a.k.a. Titsy Roll Poppz?
J Master Cattz?
Insidius J Style a.k.a. Dokta Pump?
Nefarious JoJo Smirk a.k.a. King Kracker?
Prince Gaseous J?
Nefarious JoJo Smirk a.k.a. King Kracker Lance?
Prince Gaseous J?
Biggy Joey Tiny a.k.a. Slik Professa Cloxz?
Oblivious Stylin' J Jazzy Joe?
Heavy Skinny Smugg JJ Gunshotz?

Posted by: Flautist | Mar 17, 2009 5:45:04 PM

According to my AP Stylebook and Libel Manual, it's "harebrained," no hyphen.

World Wide Words (which admittedly takes a veddy British view) has a full explanation here:


The link's entry ends with:

The current status of hairbrained is disputed: some style guides say that it should not be used, as does the Fourth Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary: “While hairbrained continues to be used and confused, it should be avoided in favor of harebrained which has been established as the correct spelling”. The Third Edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage describes it as an erroneous form “which is still occasionally found” (rather more often than that, Dr Burchfield, as my research shows). Other guides disagree, a case in point being Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage which says, “Our opinion based on the evidence is that it is established”.

Posted by: Randee | Mar 17, 2009 5:13:35 PM

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