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Infographic: 8 Common Phrases that You May Be Getting Wrong

The only part of English that is more difficult and problematic than spelling is the proper use of vernacular phrases.

Thanks to the many words in the English language that sound like each other but have different spelling and meaning, it is really easy to get a common phrase wrong by replacing the right word with its homonym. 

 common phrases that I have seen people misuse.

Edit: I have updated the infographic to replace "begging the question" with "baited breath". The second term makes for a more coherent graphic.

On a related note, this is my first homemade infographic.

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Tom Wood January 7, 2018 um 11:53 am

Add: Per Say

Nate Hoffelder January 7, 2018 um 12:55 pm

that would be a good one to add, yes

Anne H. Maxwell January 7, 2018 um 3:31 pm

You left out my favorite: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Yes, I can have my cake, and yes, I can eat it.
What you cannot do is eat your cake and have it, too.

Good article!

Zinc Whiskers January 7, 2018 um 4:19 pm

"baited breath" when it should be "bated breath".

Nate Hoffelder January 7, 2018 um 5:46 pm

that was on my short list, yes – I would have used if I hadn’t run out of room

Kevin January 7, 2018 um 6:09 pm

Yes, there is also the lost cause of "I could care less," which once upon a time was "I couldn’t care less."

Mike D January 9, 2018 um 12:05 pm

Possibly now a minority usage but still sees plenty of use.

WL Emery January 7, 2018 um 6:53 pm

Very nice. Thanks!

Mike D January 7, 2018 um 7:56 pm

"The far-reaching influence of the 39 Articles in Protestant faith cannot be underestimated. "

Where /perhaps/ "must not be underestimated" was being groped towards.

Nate Hoffelder January 7, 2018 um 8:40 pm

… what?

Karl January 7, 2018 um 9:16 pm

"Begging the question" is an interesting one. It’s probably used incorrectly about 100 times as often as it’s used correctly. And if you use it in the classically correct sense, most audiences will have no idea what you’re saying. So arguably the "incorrect" meaning is becoming the correct one.

Nate Hoffelder January 7, 2018 um 9:28 pm

You’re absolutely right how often it is misused. And since meaning shifts with usage, we can’t actually say that everyone is wrong.

I just can’t let this one go.

b January 7, 2018 um 11:15 pm

Yep. English is a living language so predominant modern usage is *always* correct.

Were this French, you’d have a point. But it’s not, so you don’t

Will Entrekin January 8, 2018 um 8:56 am

Just to add, I think a lot of people use "begs the question" when they really mean "prompts the question," which I’m not sure is related to logical fallacies. It’s more like this information or conversation prompts this new question.

Cool infographic Nate!

Zinc Whiskers January 7, 2018 um 10:46 pm

"Nonplussed" is a word that pretty much has opposite meanings depending on which country you’re in. (English v. American)

b January 7, 2018 um 11:07 pm

Personally, I like Joey Tribiani’s version of #5 better: "It’s a moo point … it’s like a cow’s opinion … it doesn’t matter … it’s moo"

b January 7, 2018 um 11:20 pm

Then there’s the phrase "Don’t like this a little bit". It’s peculiar to Philadelphia (of course, LOTS of things are a bit peculiar in Philadelphia).

What they mean is that they don’t like this EVEN a little bit.

Straker January 8, 2018 um 8:43 am

Often said while drinking a glass of wudder.

Nate Hoffelder January 8, 2018 um 12:09 pm

I updated the post and swapped out the begging entry for "baited breath".

William Ockham January 8, 2018 um 3:11 pm

Technically, those aren’t mondegreens because they didn’t arise from misheard song lyrics or poetry readings or some other vocal performance. The good folks over at the Language Log coined the term "egg corns" for this type of phrasing. See the original entry for egg corns (from nearly 15 years go!):

Nate Hoffelder January 8, 2018 um 3:32 pm

I saw that, and I think these are mondegreens.

William Ockham January 8, 2018 um 3:57 pm

The Eggcorn Database disagrees:

Nate Hoffelder January 8, 2018 um 4:16 pm

there’s no reason they can’t be both.

Jim Stovall January 8, 2018 um 3:53 pm

Not sure what the rules are here, but here’s the one that grates on me:

exact same

Thanks for the list.

Bob Tudley January 12, 2018 um 2:33 pm

More common than "reigned in" is "free reign." I see it regularly in books from major publishers these days, and it’s pretty much driven free rein from the Interwebs.

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