When you peel an apple, you pare it. The resultant apple peelings are called “parings.” “Pare” is also used metaphorically in phrases having to do with removing portions of something, such as “pare down the budget” or “pare your wish list to the three most important items.” Many people overlook the meaning of this word and write instead “pair” or even “pear.” You can pair apples with pears in a dessert, but to peel them you have to pare them.

Although it’s not too surprising that cooks should mix up these spellings, it’s astounding how often medical and scientific writers refer to substances that are “pared” with each other. A couple of medicines or treatments are paired with each other.