10 Common Phrases You've Been Getting Wrong This Whole Time
Language is a really fascinating thing. Personally, I love researching the etymology of words and phrases to better understand their usage and implications, but even if you aren't a linguistics nerd like myself, learning more about the words you use on a daily basis can be super enlightening. For example, have you ever wondered what common phrases you're getting wrong? Because there's probably at least one. Maybe more than one, even. Don't worry; it happens to the best of us.
Maybe it's because of a regional tic where everyone in your area has a habit of misusing a certain phrase; maybe it's because a certain kind of jargon jives differently in your specialized field than it does for the general public; maybe it's because of something else entirely. Whatever the cause, though, we've pretty much all had that moment when we realize what we think we're communicating is definitely not what those around us are getting. Sometimes these flubs result in humor; sometimes no one around us realizes we're wrong; and sometimes things can get awkward — or worse, even offensive, when we don't realize the implications of what we're mistakingly saying.
So: How do we avoid these awkward moments? Simple: Research! It's more fun than it sounds to learn more about the words we use and where they come from. Linguistics often involves a whole lot of information about culture, society, and values when we look at the origin of words and how they've transformed and shifted over time. Luckily for us, the users over at AskReddit suggested the most common phrases people get wrong with a huge variety of answers. These make for a great starting place!
Check out some of the most popular responses below, along with some of the research I've done to start you off about them. Head on over to AskReddit to see the whole thread.
1. Literally The Wrong Usage Of This Word
In recent years, it seems like people have been using "literally" in the literal wrong way all the time. Somehow' it's become the word of choice for when people mean to use "figuratively," which is ironic, because these words actually mean opposite things. So when people say something like "I literally died," they actually mean they figuratively "died" (of embarrassment, of what have you)... unless, of course, they're speaking to you from the grave, in which case they may be using "literally" correctly.
2. Correcting This One Can Be A Moot Point
I think this one becomes confusing for people when you learn it from hearing the phrase instead of reading it. I myself have heard people call things "mute points" quite often, and I think it's because "mute" and "moot" can sound very similar. A "mute point" would be, perhaps, a point that is silent... which, while an interesting idea, is not what a "moot" point is, which is a debatable question or issue open for argument in one sense or an irrelevant question or issue in another.
3. Weary Versus Wary
This mistake is super, super common in both print and speech. I think it's because the words sound so similar, with only one letter (the "e" in "weary") differentiating them. "Weary" means that you are exhausted or fatigued, whereas "wary" means that you are unsure or worried about something. Often, when people say they are "weary of going to the party" or "weary of having a conversation," they likely mean they are "wary" of doing those things.
4. Regardless Versus Irregardless
This is another popular one. Regardless means "without regard," so for example, if you disagree with a point someone makes, you could say, "Regardless, I'm still going with my original decision." Now, if you say, "Irregardless, I'm still going with my original decision," the actual meaning of your statement doesn't change at all. How come? The "ir" prefix is a negative prefix, so it just turns the word into a double negative. Why do people use it? Regardless is the "original" and correct form of the word, but "irregardless" is considered a correct, informal word in many dictionaries.
5. Piquing Your Curiosity
I've found that variations of the word "peak" commonly trip people up. For example, "peak" versus "peek" versus "pique" are common errors in the written word, likely because they all sound the same when spoken — so if you've only ever heard it pronounced and haven't seen all the forms written out, it's easy to see how you might confuse them. In this instance, something piques your curiosity or interest in it heightens it, whereas if someone is at a "peak," that means they're, say, at the top of a mountain. Meanwhile, if someone is "peeking," that means they're looking at something in a furtive manner.
6. Nip This One In The Butt
When I was a kid, I made this mistake all the time. The correct phrase is "nip it in the bud," which is a common reference to gardening and "nipping" (cutting) something in the "bud" (where it grows). As a kid, I used to say "nip it in the butt" and imagined someone being poked with scissors or a knife in their bottom. At the time, I thought was a painful and unusual form of punishment.
7. Climatic Versus Climactic Results
This is another very, very common one. I often see people write "climatic" when they mean "climactic." When one writes "climatic" — as in, "The end of the night was super climatic" — they're literally (see what I did ther?) referring to the weather — that is, the climate. However, what they usually mean is that the "end of the night was super climactic," meaning that it was thrilling or exciting. This one is hard to pick up on verbally, but obvious in spelling.
8. Supposably This Isn't A Word...
Ah, the many variations of the word "supposedly." This is pretty much a simple spelling error (or at least, I hope it is). It happens to the best of us!
9. Bring It Home
This one simply has to do with the correct conjugation of a verb. The past tense of the word "bring" is definitely "brought." Sometimes conjugations can be confusing, because the same rules don't apply for each and every case.
10. Conversing About Word Choices
"Conversating" is a word I hear pop up all the time in casual conversation. When people say "conversating," they're referring to having a conversation, or "conversing" with another person. Like "brought," it's another conjugation error.
If you've found yourself making these common errors, don't fear! There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Just keep the correct usages in mind for the future, and keep on keeping on!