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Bike-riding salespeople pedal as they peddle

Gene Owens explains the difference between the homophones pedal and peddle.
BY Gene Owens For The Oklahoman Published: October 6, 2012

Judy Sing, of Oklahoma City, was reading an article about a conversation in a gym between Serge Ibaka, star of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and his head coach, Scott Brooks.

The article reported: “As the two rode neighboring stationary bikes — Ibaka peddling at a much faster pace than Brooks could keep — Ibaka told his coach he wanted to be the best defensive player in the league.”

“Whoops!” said Judy as she pedaled up to Curly's Soonerco to put some air in her bike's tires. “So he's a good salesman, too.”

Buck knows nothing about Ibaka's sales prowess, but he does know his homophones. You pedal a bike, and you peddle merchandise. Buck understands why people get the two confused: Both words are derived from the Latin “ped” for “foot.” When you pedal a bike, you use your foot to provide propulsion. He figures the first peddlers pushed their carts through the streets, and therefore moved on foot.

Piano players are familiar with the soft pedal, which softens the sound of the instrument. Therefore, when you try to play down an inconvenient fact, you soft-pedal it. Buck often sees this written as “soft-peddle.” Miss Prunella Pincenez, his eighth-grade English teacher, would not soft-pedal it: That usage is incorrect.

“My doctor diagnosed me as ‘slightly overweight,'” Ms. Clarisse van Beauregard texted Buck, “so I've taken up peddling. As soon as I slip into my leopard skin leotards, I'm going to peddle over to your place, and we can have a nice tete-a-tete.”

“Whatever you're selling, I'm not buying,” said Buck.

Send questions for Buck to Please let Buck know what town you're from.


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