Even Smart People Misuse These 16 Common Phrases
Grammar-police. You know them well. Sometimes they can be annoying, but oftentimes they are just trying to be helpful. When someone knows the correct way to say something, or the proper use of a phrase, they may feel that sharing that information will be beneficial to others. Either that, or it really irks them when someone says things incorrectly.
Let’s be honest for a moment, shall we? When you hear someone using a phrase or term that is 100% erroneous, you make an assumption about their level of intelligence or their education. To reference one of my favorite comedies, a “pedal stool” is not the same as a “pedestal”, and people may think of you as daft if you say the former.
Words have a lasting impact on those you interact with. Using an idiom incorrectly or using faulty grammar is equal to walking into a board meeting in your jammies. Well, that’s what Byron Reese thinks, anyways. Reese is the CEO and co-founder of the internet-based company, Knowingly, and is a reputable name in the tech world. Knowingly recently launched Correctica, a helpful tool that reads over websites and finds errors that simple spell-checkers just can’t do. There are countless websites out there with errors- and the world of business is no exception. Reese says, “When I look for these errors on LinkedIn profiles, they’re all over the place- tens of thousands.”
Recently, Correctica scanned dozens of the most prominent websites out there, and you may be surprised to learn how many errors were found.
What are some of the most commonly misused phrases and errors?
Reese compiled a list, thanks to his trusty software, and we’re here to share it with you.
1. Prostrate cancer
An easy one to mistake, of course. But, by adding one letter, you change the entire meaning of the phrase. Instead of cancer restricted to one area of the body, you now have cancer that is prone to lying face-down on the ground. Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both have this error on their pages.
2. First-come, first-serve
What you are literally saying here is that the first person who arrives is the one who will be serving everyone who follows. The correct way to use this phrase is “first-come, first served”. Even Harvard and Yale got this one wrong.
3. Sneak peak
To take a quick look, is a “peek”. The top of a mountain is the “peak”. To use the phrase correctly, one would say “sneak peek”, meaning to take a secret or early look at something. Oxford University and the National Parks Service made this error, which is simply ironic for the latter.
Correctly, this is “deep-seated”, which means to be firmly established. While it might make sense to think “deep-seeded” indicates that something comes from deep within the ground, it’s not the correct use of this phrase. Both the Washington Post and the White House websites were found to have this error on their websites.
5. Extract revenge
Removing something is called “extracting”, like you would hear at the dentist’s office. To use this phrase correctly, you would say “exact revenge”, as in to achieve revenge. The BBC and the New York Times have made this mistake.
6. I could care less
I have personally heard numerous people say this, and it has bothered me each and every time. When you say “I could care less”, you are literally saying that you do care and yes, you have more care to give on the matter. Saying the correct “I couldn’t care less” implies you really have reached maximum apathy on a subject and could not possibly care less about it.
“Shoo” means to urgently move something in a direction, and the correct use of this term is “shoo-in”. It came about in the early 20th century and was originally related to horse-racing, but then broadened to contain a political meaning. It’s easy to see why some people confused the spelling to “shoe” when the meaning engulfed politics- shoes are easily lost, and they aren’t capable of changing unless you do it yourself.
8. Emigrated to
This one is all about proper verb usage. To “emigrate” is to come FROM somewhere, and to “immigrate” is to go TO somewhere. And that is the rule that is applied- emigrate from, immigrate to. How many people do you know who get this one wrong?
9. Slight of hand
When someone has “slighted” you, they have insulted you, and that’s not the correct way to use this expression. “Sleight”, meaning dexterity or cunning, is the right way to use “sleight of hand”. Next time you text your friend about an illusion you saw, you can spell this one properly.
10. Baited breath
The correct use of this expression is “bated breath”, as in suspenseful. When you “bait” someone, you are taunting them or preparing to catch them. The term “bated” is almost completely obsolete nowadays, which helps to continue the mistakes made with this expression.
11. Piece of mind
“Peace of mind” means calmness and tranquility. When someone says “peace of mind”, they are saying they are totally at ease. Whereas “piece of mind” means that one is handing out parts of their mind. Completely dfferent.
12. Wet your appetite
56% of the time this expression appears online, it is incorrect. The right way to use this is to say “whet your appetite.” “Whet” means to sharpen or stimulate, and this idiom means to enliven your desire for something.
13. For all intensive purposes
What purposes do you have that are “intensive?” The correct way to say this phrase is “for all intents and purposes.” Originating from English law, this phrase dates back to the 16th century and means to “officially” or “effectively” do something.
14. One in the same
To correctly use this phrase, you would say “one and the same.” To say “one in the same” means something is inside the same thing as itself- and that makes no sense, unless you are talking about cloned implosions.
15. Make due
When you owe something, payment is due. So, “make due” would mean to “make owed”. Correct use of this term is “make do,” which means to “make the best of.” “I ran out of lemons and had to make do with limes.”
16. Peaked my interest
This one can be argued for hours. The original meaning of this idiom is meant to convey “arousal or awakening of interest,” but some people prefer to say “peaked my interest” as a way to suggest they are at their highest level of interest. They both mean different things, and the correct way to use this expression is “piqued my interest.”
Now that you have had a look over some of these, can you say you know someone who will benefit from this list? Is that person you? Maybe you have a resume or a website you would like Correctica to scan for you? They have a nifty “proof it free” tool, and it’s very easy to use.
Smart people know a lot of things, and intelligence IS sexy after all.
Written by Raven Fon