A pedant recently contacted me to take issue with my use of “feint praise” in the title of a previous post. My correspondent insisted on “faint praise”. Some googling revealed that both are in widespread use. I suspect that both are actually a corruption of “feigned praise”, which would seem to make the most sense. I’m not alone, it seems. According to John L. Lepage of Malaspina University College:

How long have we been killing, burying, and disinterring our metaphors? A long time. … I was disconcerted recently to discover that many otherwise well-informed people believe the expression is to damn with faint praise. “It doesn’t make as much sense as feigned praise,” I said to one such person. Never one to be caught off guard, he cited the prologue to Wycherly’s The Plain Dealer and Pope’s Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (line 201); he gave faint praise to my preference for feigned: it is better, he said. It is better precisely because the adjective feigned so readily combines with nouns to imply disingenuousness. To my relief, many others have feigned to praise in print, at least since the eighteenth century. The example is useful, for it illustrates how accessible to editorial change the language is. The close proximity in sound and meaning (and indeed in origin) of the words feigned, feint, and faint makes them prime candidates for substitution. The language is rich with words and expressions that have evolved subtly beyond their origins. I suppose we will have to grant that the disinterred metaphor is as native to the language as etymology.</p>