in lieu of

From Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, a report of mail she’d gotten from someone who used in lieu of to mean ‘because of’ — presumably a malaprop for in view of. Turns out to be pretty common.

Just how common we can judge from the complaints about it. For example:

– from Garbl’s Style Manual (very compact style advice): in lieu of Pompous jargon. Simplify. Try for, rather than or instead of but not in view of or in place of. [note pompous label]

– from Jag’s Blog“An architectural milestone in lieu of the Commonwealth Games” declares a headline. What it means is in view of. This seems to have become a very common mistake. [note imputation of increasing frequency]

– from a 1988 column (5/8/88) by Thomas H. Middleton in the L.A. Times, a report of persistent use by one speaker (see below).

– from Bryan Garner’s A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, 2rd ed., 2001, p. 449, a suggestion that the usage is a combination of two idioms and a claim that it’s spreading (see below).

Before I get to Middleton and Garner, some observations about the classification of the mistake, which is some kind of malapropism. Repeated use strongly suggests that it’s (usually) advertent, so it’s a classical malaprop (rather than a Fay/Cutler malaprop), and this classification is supported by the fact that the substitute lieu is more bookish (or stylish) than the thing it substitutes for (as is often the cae in classical malaprops). The substitution doesn’t, so far as I can see, improve the semantics of in view of, so it’s not an eggcorn; then it’s no surprise that the Eggcorn Database has no entry for it, nor has it been discussed in the forum there.


A man called in [to radio station KCRW] to ask [Ben] Cate’s opinion on the latest Democratic presidential primary debates. For the most part, the caller spoke well, and his points seemed quite cogent. Because of my inability to handle a potpourri of thoughts at once, I’m not entirely sure what he said.

He used, or misused, the same phrase in the same way not just once, but several times. He said things such as, “In lieu of Dukakis’ latest criticisms of Gore . . .” and “In lieu of the fact that Jesse Jackson is getting a surprising share of the white vote. . . .” He used other “in-lieu-of” constructions so often that I found myself thinking less about the points he was making than his use of “in lieu of.” He obviously meant “in view of.”

I’d heard “in lieu of” used for “in view of” before. “In view of” is an English idiom of long standing, meaning “in consideration of, on account of.” In lieu of is a borrowing from French, meaning “in place of” or “instead of,” lieu being French for place. Obviously, the caller’s repeated misuse of “in lieu of” was more than slightly disconcerting.

Even when used properly, I’ve always considered “in lieu of” to be rather precious, because “instead of” is so handy and so homely.

(In lieu of gets a fair amount of play in usage books, almost entirely because of the spelling challenge in presents in English; pretty much any alternative selling you can think of has been tried.)


For in view of. The day after President Clinton announced his health-care plan in the fall of 1983, a radio host, broadcasting from the lawn of the White House, said to his listeners: “This morning we’re going to discuss what state health care means in lieu of the President’s new federal plan.” This mistake – which is spreading – results from a confusion of in view of and in light of, either of which would have sufficed in that sentence. As it is, in lieu of is a MALAPROPISM when used for either of the other phrases.

Garner’s blend account strikes me as gratuitous; it’s enough that there are phonologically very similar idioms in view of and in lieu of in the language, so that someone inclined to reach (unconsciously) for an elevated expression to do the work of in view of might well hit on in lieu of.

Malapropistic in lieu of might in fact be spreading — or its increasing frequency might be illusory, a consequence of increased attention from observers like Garner; unfortunately, it isn’t easy to search for.

I will probably start heraring and seeing it all over the place now.


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