Famous Sayings: #72 — ‘Just Deserts’

July 29, 2017

I guess you can say he got his just deserts.

just deserts, desert, dessert, famous sayings
The “deserts” in the phrase does not refer to dry, arid lands or sweet treats.

When people say “Just deserts,” they may not know that they are pronouncing a different word. In fact, this famous saying is an eggcorn, because it often involves a spelling error which is “based on the mishearing of a word, or misunderstanding of its context” (Wise Geek).

Now, you may think I spelled that incorrectly, but I didn’t. The phrase “just deserts” does not have a double “s” like the word for sweat treats does. Instead, the plural of “desert” is being used.

Over at The Phrase Finder, Gary Martin revealed that he was often contacted by readers about the spelling of the word “deserts” in “just deserts.” Most readers would insist that the spelling should be “desserts,” but they were incorrect. (Incidentally, most of the people contacting Martin about this idiom were from Australia.)

If one visits The Grammartist website, they may read that spelling for “just deserts” as “just desserts” is “not a serious error. However, some people in the know might be bothered by it. In any event, the term “desert” as it’s used hear is rare and obsolete.

That said, let’s first look at the word “deserts” to clear up any confusion.

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