"Ado" Versus "Adieu"

 Is it much ado about nothing?

Mignon Fogarty,
October 24, 2011

Michael D. from San Francisco wants to know why he keeps seeing people write “without further adieu” instead of “without further ado.”

"Is it sheer ignorance or hypercorrection?” he asks.

The proper form is “without further ado”; an ado is a hubbub, bustle, flurry, or fuss. Another common phrase, from the title of a Shakespeare play, is “much ado about nothing.”

I can't be certain why people get it wrong, but the substitution of "adieu" for "ado" is what linguists call an eggcorn--when people confuse two words that sound the same. The name comes from a discussion on the Language Log about a woman who thought the word for acorn was “eggcorn.”

In some instances, it is also possible to see how people could mistakenly believe the meaning of “adieu”--goodbye--makes sense in the saying. For example, if people want to leave without further excessive farewells, it may seem logical to say something such as “without further adieu, we're off to the movies.” Although it may seem logical, it's not correct. If you mean "goodbyes," you'd have to use the plural: "adieus."

See the related article about eggcorns, spoonerisms, mondegreens, and malapropisms.


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