Word choice: Breached and broached

A reader wondered about this sentence in Under the Dome on Monday: Edwards said someone had broached a confidentiality agreement about the money he received from the book. The reader and I think the writer meant to write “breached,” meaning to violate or break in a legal sense.

This is not a common word confusion, though, for either “breach” or “broach.” We who edit copy about fashion and jewelry often must correct “broach” to “brooch.” The words are pronounced the same, but, of course, “brooch” is the spelling for a decorative pin. We hardly ever come across someone “brooching the subject,” though. That’s good because it should be “broaching the subject.” “Broach” in that instance means to bring up. The words have a common ancestor though.

“Breach” and “breech” are confused, too. We read about “breach births,” when a baby’s hind parts come out before the head. That should be “breech birth.” “Breech” means the rear or butt of something. We also run across “breeches in security.” Uh-oh, that should be “breaches.” In this case, a “breach” is a break, an instance of failure.

We also speak about a person who is “too big for his breeches,” but that is pronounced “britches” where I come from.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.