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.
(Of a person) in the habit of doing something; accustomed: he was wont to arise at 5.30 every morning
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.
The simplest fix might be simply deleting the word "are". The girls want to gossip. This turns the sentence into a statement about the present, with no implications about any past or future intentions.
Others have pointed out that replacing "want" with the (near-)homophone† "wont" fixes the sentence. The girls are now inclined to gossip whenever the occasion is right, but may not be gossiping now (though the implication is that they probably are gossiping).
Replacing "are" with "all" also fixes the grammar. The "all" now provides emphasis; there is not even one girl who doesn't want to gossip right now.
I could go on...
† In many English dialects, "wont" is a perfect homophone of "want" – both words sound identical in normal use.
The girls in the office are wont to gossip.
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:
“Obama called Romney out on things that were “not true” — a phrase he used in some form at least six times. Romney, for his part, committed unforced errors, as is his wont.”
Also I found the “be wont to do” pattern in the answer to one of my questions in EL&U:
“That's what I'd assume from Dowd's account, but I could be wrong about that, and Ms. Dowd may just be piling on with dramatic words, as she is often wont to do.”
"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
"_ _ _ _, as is his wont"
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:
The girls in the office all want to gossip.
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.
Thank you for your interest in this question.
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