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Ordinarily, I think it's bad form to play gotcha editing games with writers. They have enormously difficult jobs, and in churning through thousands of words, they're sure to bungle a few. If not for that, I'd have to find a different way to fill my days -- or, more accurately, my pocketbook.

But when the offender is Robert J. Samuelson, a leading voice on economic matters and a man who chooses his words with care and precision, I cannot resist. Please allow me this indulgence.

From a column:

The presumption implicit in the criticism of growing economic inequality is that society's income is a given and, if the rich have less, others will have more. Up to a point, that's true. The government already redistributes much income, often for the good. During the boom years, companies might have been less lavish with top executives and slightly more generous to other workers or shareholders. Some new fortunes stem from self-dealing and financial razzle-dazzle, not the creation of real economic value. It's just desserts that some of this wealth has evaporated.

No, it's "just deserts." The word is related to "deserve," not to cake and ice cream. This is a commonly mistaken phrase, and it's also one that, when rendered correctly, often results in missives from readers who insist that the correct version is the mistake.

I should also point out that Samuelson's column moved on the wire services with the incorrect phrasing, as you can see from this version posted at the Cleveland Plain Dealer site.

At his home newspaper, the Washington Post, editors caught and corrected the mistake.

Here at The Gazette, we also caught the error.

Finally, one little mistake does not torpedo the worth of Samuelson's wise words. Take the time, if you haven't already, to read what he has to say.

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