Browse Definitions :

Bane (or bain) of my existence?

Writing for Business

Which is correct?

Inefficient use of bandwidth is the _____ of the network administrator’s existence.
a. bane
b. bain

Answer: a.

Explanation:
The correct spelling is bane, meaning something that — maybe slightly melodramatically — ruins one’s life. Bain, on the other hand, is a French word for bath.

Here’s an excerpt from The Word Detective:

To say that something or someone is “the bane of my existence” means that the person or thing is a constant irritant or source of misery. As a cliche�, “bane of my existence” has lost its edge to a large degree over the years, and today is most often applied to something that may profoundly annoy us but is certainly bearable. Telemarketers, for instance, have become the “bane” of many folks’ existence, but few of us are sufficiently distressed to turn off our telephones, and while “spam” is a daily “bane,” not many of us would dream of giving up the Internet. “Bane of my existence” is now almost always used in a semi-jocular, “what are you gonna do?” sense.

But “bane” was once a very serious word. The Old English “bana” meant literally “slayer” in the sense we now use “killer” or “murderer.” Early on, the English “bane” was also used in the more general sense of “cause of death,” and by the 14th century “bane” was used in the specialized sense of “poison,” a sense which lives on in the names of various poisonous plants such as “henbane” and “wolfbane.”

From this very literal “something that kills you” usage, “bane” by the 16th century had broadened into its modern meaning of “something that makes life unpleasant, a curse.”

Read on for more about banes of existence, neighbors’ dogs and much more on The Word Detective website. (And now I’d better step away from TWD or I’ll never get anything done this afternoon.)

How many people get this question right? Here’s a quick Google poll:
bane of my existence: 5,260,000 hits
bain of my existence: 1,880,000

Bane is the clear winner here — still, over a quarter got this one wrong.

Note: edited to correct error helpfully pointed out by Stato and then further explained (so I actually realized what where I’d gone wrong — from the first) by Youarewrong.

 Follow us on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

Dig Deeper on Writing for Business

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

SearchCompliance

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

  • PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

    The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a widely accepted set of policies and procedures intended to ...

  • risk management

    Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization's capital and earnings.

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • call tree

    A call tree is a layered hierarchical communication model that is used to notify specific individuals of an event and coordinate ...

  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

    Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third party to provide ...

  • cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR)

    Cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR) is a combination of strategies and services intended to back up data, applications and other ...

SearchStorage

Close