I try to be understanding about all the different issues I see in my daily life as a proofreader and editor with eyes that can’t help catching things. Many of them, as I’ve described in this blog over the months, are explicable and understandable. But I have to admit that I have a bit of a block about this one, and I just can’t see how people manage to mix them up!
But I do see this one all over the place, and the Oxford Concise English Dictionary sees it necessary to have one of its special boxed comments distinguishing the two, so I’d better get on and differentiate them for you. I’ll be interested to see how many hits I get on this post from search engines – some of them are proving ever so popular! But maybe people don’t even realise there’s a distinction …
To peddle is to sell goods or promote ideas – so you can peddle the idea of a new innovation or practice – or of course you can sell goods door to door like a pedlar, which is where the word comes from originally.
A pedal, on the other hand, is an apparatus for making a bicycle move (or a similar human-powered machine like a pedalo or pedal-car), or an apparatus for making something happen, operated by the feet; thus car clutch and brake pedals or organ pedals. To pedal is to make a bike (or similar) move by applying pressure to its pedals.
Peddling – selling or promoting. Pedalling – moving oneself forward under one’s own steam on a bicycle or suchlike.
“Boris Johnson is peddling the idea of his hired bikes all over London – and you can literally get on a physical bike and pedal it all over London!”