Is this the correct use and placement of want?
The girls in the office are want to gossip.
Does anyone have a reference citing this use?
It should be "are wont to gossip", which means they are likely or inclined to gossip.
The usage "are want" is not correct.
There are lots of ways to fix the sentence so that it is grammatical, but the appropriate fix can't be determined with the information we have.
I could go on...
† In many English dialects, "wont" is a perfect homophone of "want" – both words sound identical in normal use.
Isn't this a typo of 'The girls in office are wont to gossip."?
“Genius English Japanese Dictionary” at hand defines “wont” as (1) adjective meaning ‘accustomed to’ and (2) noun meaning ‘habit’ and ‘custom.’ Thus I interpret the expression, ‘The girls in the office are wont to gossip” is similar to “The girls in office are apt (or inclined) to gossip”.
Though I’m not sure the following instance is relevant to the above usage, I found the case of 'wont' being used in (2) of the above in the article titled “Blunders and Binders” in October 17 New York Times:
Also I found the “be wont to do” pattern in the answer to one of my questions in EL&U:
"want" is just a common "eggcorn" or indeed, simply, a common typo for "wont"
"wont" is a somewhat archaic or unusual word, but, so what? The same can be said of almost any word which often gets "eggcorned" today (tenterhooks, intents, etc).
Note that the form
is still fairly common. (Indeed, when that is used, I'm sure that 80% of the time the user is so silly they think the word is "want" - but so what? "Eggcorns" are common in English today.)
The problem is not with want, but with are. If you replace are with all the sentence is correct:
As to your question whether anyone has a reference citing this use — well, this is a common office thing to gossip and rarely is it limited to just girls.
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