If every meal were just desserts…

Do you hear what I hear?

I got an email from an old friend, someone I consider an English speaker, and he made what I thought was a pretty common mistake in English.
He wrote: just deserves.
I always thought that it was just desserts, referring to the fact that if you do something lousy, you get something appropriately lousy in return. (I imagined that if you acted badly, you deserved really awful dessert in return, like really soggy tiramisu. Ach – I can’t stand tiramisu.)

After spending a few elated minutes congratulating myself on my superior English, I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and look it up.

It turns out that we were both wrong, but he was actually closer than I was.

The real phrase is “just deserts.”  It’s a phrase we say in English when we want to say that someone got what they deserve – sometimes we say it in a nice way, and sometimes we don’t.
But it’s pronounced like desserts (קינוחים) not deserts (מדבר).

The original Latin term was “deservire” and apparently deserts once meant something you deserve, not just dry sandy land where cacti grow. Go figure.

However it’s spelled and pronounced, it’s a really useful idiom which actually does mean getting the rotten recompense you deserve.

  • After yelling at her employees all day, Sandra got her just deserts when her throat was so sore that she couldn’t speak at all the next morning.
  • John had cut corners and taken the cheap route throughout the project and got his just deserts when the final product fell to pieces in front of the customer.
  • After making an obnoxious, sexist comment about women drivers, Raviv got his just deserts when he spent twenty minutes wandering around the parking lot and still couldn’t remember where he’d parked. (Yep, this is the one from the email, and as a feminist, I should’ve replied to the email with some soggy tiramisu.)

Just remember, no matter how it’s spelled, it’s pronounced like warm chocolate soufflé covered with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with fudge sauce.
Now that’s a worthy dessert.


About rachel karlin
I can't claim to be an English language expert, but making a lot of mistakes in Hebrew and hearing a lot of mistakes in English gets me thinking. And thinking in my world translates into writing, which in this case means sharing some of my ideas.

One Response to If every meal were just desserts…

  1. toby says:

    How funny, I also never knew that it was deserts with one s, and I’ve also envisioned yucky desserts all these years! Anything soggy qualifies in my book 🙂
    Thanks for the tip!

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