Friday, September 6, 2013

tolled/told: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, September 6, 2013

Some people imagine that the expression should be “all tolled” as if items were being ticked off to the tolling of a bell or it involved the paying of a toll, but in fact this goes back to an old meaning of “tell”: “to count.” You could “tell over” your beads if you were counting them in a rosary. “All told” means “all counted.” This older meaning of “tell” is the reason that people who count money out behind bank windows are called “tellers.”

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