On a recent trip into the hills that involved a fair amount of road travel, several Ambassadors scuttled past us. Usually some kind of official cars, these. You know: mostly (but not always) white, those peculiar visors above the windscreen, often with an upward-pointing arrow that begins the registration number. And, most of the time, this written on the back: "Power Break".
Now you know that's supposed to be "Power Brake".
So I got to wondering.
* What are power brakes, how do they differ from regular brakes, and why do cars have them?
* Why do they need to announce to the world that they have said power brakes? Is my safety somehow compromised if a car with these things shoots past, to the extent that I need this warning?
* Most crucial of all, how did the mutation happen from "brake" to "break"? Think about it. As a spoken word, "brake" is known to all. Still, there are guys who don't know the written words apart -- the painters of these Ambassador warnings would appear to be such guys. Yet it seems likely to me that even these guys would know that "break" is further, phonetically, from the sound of the word than "brake" is. No?
If that's the case, why is "Power Break" apparently muscling out "Power Brake"?
My feeling is that the phrase is the 21st Century "Horn OK Please", a meme that caught on. Painting the words on Ambassadors, some poor sod misspelled it as "break" once; others saw it (maybe liked it) and copied it, and the rest is history.
Yeah, but give me a brake.