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I've heard both phrases in everyday speech, so there's little doubt in my mind that the answer is both. I suspect, though, that one of these phrases is more the original than the other, and the other sprang out of it from mis-hearing.

Glaringly obvious seems essentially redundant; the word obvious occurs in the definition of glaring in the three dictionaries I looked at. Blaringly obvious is less favored by, say, Google, but actually describes the obviousness, as opposed to repeating it.

Are these two statements identical? Is one the forebear of the other?

  • It is difficult to resist the urge to fix these glaringly obvious errors.
  • It is difficult to resist the urge to fix these blaringly obvious errors.

What about this third? Is it preferable, or does it change the meaning?

  • It is difficult to resist the urge to fix these glaring errors.
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@tchrist I wish I had known the word eggcorn five minutes ago. Anyway, the question could be phrased, which is the eggcorn and which the original, I suppose. – kojiro Oct 8 '12 at 15:33
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I disagree with your interpretation.

Glaringly obvious describes that the thing [metaphorically] glares at you. It's a sight-based metaphor. A similar idiom is blindingly obvious.

Blaringly obvious is a combination of glaring and blinding. If something is blaring, it's screaming at you, so while it does have much the same connotations as glaring and blinding, it's a sound-based metaphor and less suited for seeing what is obvious.

I suspect that the original user misused both glaringly and blindingly and ended up with what is effectively a Spoonerism. Since then, it's either been used deliberately as an off-beat metaphor (sound-based rather than sight-based) or it's an eggcorn.

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That a thing glares at you is only one definition of glaring. Is there documented etymology to suggest that the other definitions of glaring stem from this? Also, the word blaring comes from the Middle English bleren, and is not a combination of glaring and blinding. – kojiro Oct 8 '12 at 15:39
You misunderstand. The word blaring is old; but it's used here through the (probably mistaken) combination of "glaring" and "blinding". – Andrew Leach Oct 8 '12 at 15:43
May I suggest that there's another word in play here? --blatantly. – StoneyB Oct 8 '12 at 15:49
@StoneyB Possibly, but would not a word starting bl– and ending –ingly be more likely? – Andrew Leach Oct 8 '12 at 15:51
Oh, indeed. I'm not suggesting blatantly instead of but alongside blaringly. – StoneyB Oct 8 '12 at 15:54

They're not identical because "to blare" is sound-related and "to glare" is light/sight-related.

The standard idiom is glaringly obvious, like a fluorescent pink tie.

The blaringly obvious variant is used by some, but probably the people who also say I would of instead of the correct I would have.

I'd say that glaringly obvious came first.

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Evidence, or just a general sense? – kojiro Oct 8 '12 at 15:36
Google Books ngrams show no uses of "blaringly obvious" for the past 200 years; Google search changes the terms "blaringly obvious" to "glaringly obvious"; in 69 years of reading, writing, speaking, listening, teaching, & editing English, I've never encountered "blaringly obvious" but have frequently encountered "glaringly obvious". I know that the current younger generations of native speakers of English are fairly illiterate despite their plethora of consumer educational credentials, & that illiteracy was worse in days of yore, but the good writers said "glaringly obvious". 本当に – user21497 Oct 8 '12 at 15:55
If you're going to make value judgements about it, then why don't we drop all the two-word phrases and just go for pithy alternatives like obvious and blatant? :) – kojiro Oct 8 '12 at 16:03
I think that glaring errors and glaringly obvious errors aren't different in denotative meaning, but when people tell me that what's obvious is obvious, I generally feel patronized. So I'd say that the connotation of the second phrase is that the person being spoken to missed the errors, but that the connotation of the first is that both speaker and listener are equally aware of the errors and of each other's awareness of the errors. Modifying the word errors, which needs no emotional support, is always a value judgment. Human nature. – user21497 Oct 8 '12 at 16:06
+1 for the careful thinking on the subject. – kojiro Oct 8 '12 at 16:13

I'm going to propose something slightly different. I think we all recognize that there is a series of words, glare, glaring, glaringly. However the parallel series of words, blare, blaring, blaringly results in a word that is not generally accepted as a word and is the word in question - blaringly.

The two previous answers, which both point out the visual nature of glare and audible nature of blare, are useful for that particular reason. However I don't think "it's glaring at you" is the right definiens to choose for this particular application, but glaring in the sense that it is reflecting (focused) bright light. With this interpretation glaringly would be the adverb of choice for visual events while blaringly would be the adverb of choice for audible events. I feel that both these words, glaring and blaring, have an inability-to-ignore connotation, but that is tangential.

For comparison, I put forth the words oblige and obligation; the former is a verb and the latter is a noun, both of which English received from Old French or Latin directly (approx. 13th century). In the course of verbifying the noun we received the word obligate (and it's relatives, such as obligated) which are now common words. My understanding is that the -ation suffix comes in its entirety through the Latin and French streams, and is applied, in its entirety, to the word oblige, resulting in obligation. To reverse this properly, one would return to oblige, but it appears that is has instead been shortened only partially to obligate. Thus, English now has the words obligate from the 16th or 17th century when in occurs in no other language, probably from this "back-conjugation" procedure.

That's all to say, what I'm suggesting is just a conjugation of blare or blaring to blaringly that conforms to other similar English conjugations, and would be construed as the natural development of language over time.

Part of the original question was whether to use "glaringly obvious" or "glaring." In the exact examples offered, I don't think there is a difference, but still have the following opinion: If the same choice was offered 7 times in a paragraph, I would, as a rule, choose the latter as choosing the former for all 7 would create an excessively wordy paragraph that didn't increase content in any way. That said, however, glaring is an adjective while glaringly is an adverb; this implies that at some point where the verb is not redundant to the adverb that glaringly will be preferred. For example, something could be glaringly obnoxious which implies that it is both vile and obviously so, which is not as redundant as being obviously obvious.

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