Nobody likes a smart ass, so you’re probably going to hate me after you read this post. That said, here are a bunch of words and phrases that are frequently used incorrectly. How many are you guilty of?
“Nip it in the butt.” The expression should be nip it in the bud, which means to put an end to something before it develops into something larger. It alludes to destroying a flower bud before it blooms. But hey, if you’re into nipping butts, well, that sounds kind of kinky to me, but who am I to judge?
“I could care less.” Okay so maybe you care more than you think you do, but the expression is I couldn’t care less.
“One in the same.” The same person or thing is one and the same. Zorro and Don Diego, Clark Kent and Superman, Bruce Wayne and Batman are all examples of one and the same, not one in the same.
“You’ve got another thing coming.” Now this is one even I have been saying wrong. It should be you’ve got another think coming, because its meaning is that you have to rethink your position, as in “If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Each one worse than the next.” Unless you can predict the future, how do you know if the next one is going to worse than the last one? That’s why the correct expression is each one worse than the last.
“On accident.” Don’t you mean by accident?
“Statue of limitations.” It’s the Statue of Liberty. It’s the statute of limitations.
“For all intensive purposes.” Something can be very intensive, which means it requires or has a high concentration of a specified quality or element, as in intensive care. But the phrase is actually for all intents and purposes, which basically means, “amounts to” or “pretty much the same thing.”
“He did good.” Good, in this case is an adjective that should describe a noun, so “He did a good job” would be correct. But when describing not how he did something but what he did, he did well is the right way to go.
“Extract revenge.” It’s easy to see why this can be confused with the correct phrase, which is exact revenge. Extract means to draw or pull out, often with great force or effort. You extract a wisdom tooth. You use tweezers to extract a splinter. But in this context, to exact revenge is a planned, methodical act that is often severe.
“Old timer’s disease.” I got a kick out of this one the first time I saw it because I’d never heard it used as a substitute for Alzheimer’s disease. I suppose one could argue that Alzheimer’s is typically something that happens mostly to old timers.
“I’m giving you some leadway.” I’d love to have you give me some leadway. What the fuck is “leadway”? Actually, I’d rather you be giving me some leeway. Leeway is extra time, space, materials, or the like, within which to operate. It’s a degree of freedom of action or thought. So please, by all means, give me some leeway.
“A whole nother.” As with “leadway,” “nother” is not a word. Neither is “nuther.” I would thank you for offering me a whole nother if I only knew what a nother is. Why not just give me “another” or “a whole other”?
“Irregardless.” Yet another non-word. The word regardless means “without regard.” The prefix “ir” is a negative. By adding “ir” to the front of “regardless,” you’ve essentially created a double negative meaning “without without regard.” The correct word is simply regardless. Part of the not-so-uncommon use of the non-word irregardless may be due to the word “irrespective,” a perfectly good word that means without taking into account, or essentially, regardless of something. It can be confusing, but regardless, “irregardless” is not a word.
“Conversating.” Sorry, but that is not a word either. When you’re engaged in a conversation, you’re conversing.
“Expresso.” Okay, so you walk into a Starbucks and ask for a double expresso. How dumb do you feel when that pimply-faced barista smiles at you and says, “Oh, you want a double espresso, right?”
“Momento.” If you are visiting Mexico and would like a local to please give you a minute while visiting Mexico, you might say, “Un momento, por favor.” But if what you want is something to remind you of your trip to Mexico, what you’re after is a memento.
“Scotch free.” Okay, there’s Scotch tape and Scotch plaid, but there’s no ”Scotch free” unless, perhaps, someone gives you a free bottle of Scotch whiskey. The expression is scot-free, which means to go unpunished; to be acquitted of a crime. Scot is an old word meaning “tax” or “tax burden.”
“I made a complete 360 degree change I my life.” That means you’re going around in circles and you’re back where you started. What you probably meant to say is that you’ve made a complete 180 degree change, meaning you’re now going in an entirely different direction…the opposite direction. Or maybe you’re going in a whole nother direction.
“Curl up in the feeble position.” Sure, sometimes when you’re feeling low or upset, you may also feel pretty feeble. But the position you’re curling up into is the fetal position.
“Phase.” This could be the correct word, depending upon context. You may be going through a “phase,” which is a temporary stage in your life that will pass. Most boys go through a masturbation phase in adolescence and early adult hood. For some men, though, that phase never passes. A faze, however, is to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt: The worst insults cannot faze him.
“Hone in.” A hone is a fine-grained whetstone for giving a keen edge to a cutting tool. You usually hone something, as in to sharpen or make more effective. When you home in on something, you are getting within range, zeroing in. It was originally used in early aeronautics when pilots were guided to their destinations and back to their home bases by radio beacons. In the jargon of the time, they were said to “home in on” the beacons. Actually, though, “hone in” has become more commonplace these days than “home in.” Hone in is what linguists call an “eggcorn”: a change in word form due to error or misunderstanding.
“I have to follow the tenants of my religion.” What you mean is that you have to follow the tenets (or principles or doctrines) of your religion. If you follow your tenants, or people who rent property, you might be thought of as a stalker.
“Put the petal to the medal.” This is a double whammy. Unless you’re handing out medals with flower petals on them, what you’re really wanting to say is “Put the pedal to the metal,” which means to press a car’s accelerator to the floor.
“I’m feeling nauseous.” No, you’re not. If you feel like you’re about to throw-up, you’re feeling nauseated. And if you make me feel like puking, then what you are is nauseous.
If you have any other examples of misused words or phrases, please feel free to add them in your comments.