Everyday phrases you might not know you’ve been saying incorrectly (I)

Written by Farooq Kperogi (PhD)

A friend recently shared the following article with me, and I thought many of my readers will benefit from reading it. It’s written by a Nico Lang, an American writer and producer for the website called Thought Catalog. I edited it for space and clarity.

The original article, titled “44 Everyday Phrases You Might Not Know You’ve Been Saying Incorrectly,” can be found by going to this link: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/44-everyday-phrases-you-might-not-know-youve-been-saying-incorrectly/#lYO1gwcTm1CHsCxd.01. The writer’s observations are mostly are correct. It’s just that some of them are a little too pedantic. For instance, the phrase “spitting image” is now standard, and can be found in prestigious dictionaries, although the original phrase was “spit and image.” The writer’s take on “fit as a fiddle” is flat-out wrong. I excluded many others that are either wrong or overly America-centric.

1. Saying it wrong: “I could care less”
Doing it right: “I couldn’t care less”
“I could care less” doesn’t make a lot of sense as a phrase. To be an appropriate put down, you want to indicate that you have no fucks left to give and your esteem is at its lowest possible level. Thus, if you’re saying “I couldn’t care less,” it means exactly that. It is impossible for you to give less of a shit about this.

2. Saying it wrong: “Circumvent the globe”
Doing it right: “Circumnavigate the globe”
The definition of “circumvent” is to “evade” or “go around,” as in dodging an obstacle or problem. Thus, if you see your ex in public with their new boyfriend, you may want to circumvent that situation by walking another direction or turning the fuck around. You cannot, however, evade the Earth. You’re oo it.

4. Saying it wrong: “Self-depreciating”
Doing it right: “Self-deprecating”
Self-deprecating means to take oneself down or undervalue oneself, which makes it closely related to “depreciating,” even if saying that version is wrong. “Depreciating” is an economic term used to indicate that the value of something drops over time, like Jessica Alba or Fred Durst’s musical career. You can diminish your value (a face tattoo is a great place to start), but if you’re using “self-depreciate” to make fun of yourself, you’re diminishing your value in the wrong way.

5. Saying it wrong: “Irregardless”
Doing it right: “Regardless”
“Ir” is a prefix that negates the phrase that comes before it, which is unnecessary when “less” is already doing the same thing. You could say “irregard,” I suppose, but that also sounds stupid.

6. Saying it wrong: “Another thing coming”
Doing it right: “Another think coming”
Okay, I’ll admit. This malapropism is infuriating, and the wrong version just sounds more right. The only way this makes sense is if you use the whole phrase as originally intended. The complete phrase goes “If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming.” Translated from stupid, this means that if you have an incorrect thought, you better think again. I don’t like it, but here we are.

7. Saying it wrong: “Escape goat”
Doing it right: “Scapegoat”
For the record, like “doggy-dog world,” I’ve never heard “escape goat” in real life, but I kind of love it. Where do I get an escape goat? Do they have wings? Can we reenact Chicken Run?

8. Saying it wrong: “Jive with”
Doing it right: “Jibe with”
I get where this comes from. When someone says they “jive with” something, they mean to indicate that they are “cool with it” or can “get down with it.” This is similar to the actual phrase “jibe with,” which means “to agree with.” So, when Barack Obama says he believes in equal marriage, that all people be able to have whatever state-sponsored lesbian commitment ceremony they choose, I “jibe with” that. But I don’t “jive with” it. That’s racist.

9. Saying it wrong: “All of my children” / “Outside of”
Doing it right: “All my children” / “Outside”
In such phrases, Americans have a tendency of inserting an extra “of,” which is just not needed here. Think of our beloved Erica Kane, played by the seemingly ageless Susan Lucci. Did she lose a million Emmys acting in “All of My Children?” No. She lost them on “All My Children.” Let soap opera be your guiding light through all things.

10. Spelling it wrong: “Peak/peek my interest”
Doing it right: “Pique my interest”
This kind of makes sense, if you mean to say that your interest in something has reached its highest point. However, pique means to “provoke or arouse,” which makes more sense in context. “Peek” just sounds creepy and wrong.

11. Spelling it wrong: “Scott free”
Doing it right: “Scot free”
I actually know someone named “Scott Free,” and every time someone misspells it, I just think of him. Remember: You’re not freeing our friend Scott over here. If you’re getting off “scott free,” you’re getting away with something with few consequences, like our friend George Zimmerman.

12. Spelling it wrong: “Baited breath”
Doing it right: “Bated breath”
Were your breath “baited,” that means that your breathing is currently being taunted or tormented, which could be true. I don’t know your life. However, it’s more likely that with “baited breath,” you are waiting in suspense to learn the outcome of something. Don’t bully your breaths. Let them live.

13. Spelling it wrong: “Free reign”
Doing it right: “Free rein”
It’s easy to see the misconception here. By saying “free reign,” you want to indicate that a ruler or royal has the ability to do whatever (s)he pleases when it comes to their kingdom, having “free reign” over the land. But that’s not what it’s meant to indicate. “Free rein” comes from equestrian jargon, meaning to give your horse freedom of motion, holding loosely the reins to go easy on ol’ Black Beauty.

14. Saying it wrong: “Hunger pains”
Doing it right: “Hunger pangs”
Like many phrases on this list, “hunger pains” is a perfectly sensible phrase to use, and anyone who has ever had to go on a religious fast knows the feeling of pain when you haven’t eaten for 48 hours. However, hunger pangs is the original phrase, indicating the sharp jolts you feel from hunger. Yes, this is pain. I realize. No, I didn’t not make up the English language.


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