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Heteronyms: peddle power

[7 Aug 2013] Headline in the local paper says: ‘Saleswoman is fined for no licence’ and the story begins: ‘A Derbyshire woman has been convicted of pedaling without a licence in Buxton, a court heard.'

This piqued our interest at Plain Language Towers. Since when did salespeople need a licence to ride a bicycle?  And if they did, wouldn’t it be better spelt ‘pedalling’?

Then, slow-witted creatures that we are, the penny dropped. The saleswoman was selling household products door to door, and for this she needs a licence. She is a pedlar, she peddles, and she was peddling illegally so someone grassed her up. As to whether she was using a bicycle to help her get about, the story is tomb-silent. You just can’t find the facts you need, these days.

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