WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 12, 2015
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10 Common Phrases Even the Smartest People Misuse

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We all make mistakes while we talk and write. Some are big grammar or spelling errors, and others are less important mistakes that we barely even notice.

Although the words we are using can sometimes determine how eloquent and intelligent we are, a few mistakes don’t necessarily mean that we aren’t intelligent. Even the smartest people can make such mistakes and still be considered to be well-educated and successful individuals.

See Also: Avoid These 20 English Words When in Other Countries

So, check out this list of 10 common phrases and idioms that are often misused by many people and quite possibly by you as well:

1. You did good

Many people are forced to face a grammar dilemma every time they are trying to praise someone for something they did. Unfortunately most of the time they choose to express themselves using the wrong phrase. Instead of ‘you did well’ they say ‘you did good.’ The error here occurs with the confusion people have over the word ‘well’ and ‘good’. The former should be used as an adverb whereas the latter as an adjective.

2. I could care less

‘I could care less’ is one of the most commonly used phrases in English. What many people don’t know though is that the correct way of expressing your apathy or disgust about something is ‘I couldn’t care less’. When you are using the latter, you make it obvious to others that you no longer care about something whereas using the former means that you still do.

3. Peaked my Interest

While this phrase seems and sounds to be grammatically correct in reality it’s not. Many people are unsure about which out of the three words ‘pique’, ‘peak’ or ‘peek’ they should use in this idiom. The answer is ‘piqued my interest’, which means to excite; to spark the interest or curiosity about something. The phrase ‘peaked my interest’ suggests that your interest is taken to the highest point possible. While it can be related to the feeling of excitement, it’s not the meaning this phrase is trying to convey.

4. Wet Your Appetite

‘Whet your appetite’ is often confused with ‘wet whistle.’ Perhaps this is the reason most people tend to spell this phrase incorrectly. Despite the fact, there’s no connection whatsoever in terms of the meaning of these two phrases ‘wet your appetite’ is still widely used and to be honest it’s quite understandable. Since ‘whet’ is not a common word, none can blame you for doing this mistake. Generally ’whet your appetite’ means to sharpen your appetite; to awake your desire for something.

5. Sneak Peak

It’s incorrect to say sneak peak to express the opportunity to see something before it’s officially available. What you should say instead is ‘sneak peek’. The former refers to the peak of the mountain which is completely unrelated to the actual meaning of the phrase.

6. First-come, First-serve

The actual phrase is first-come, first-served and it denotes that the first person to arrive will be the one to be served first. If you say it incorrectly, it will mean that the first person to come will serve all the others who came after him. While you would think this is common sense, it is often employed in spoken and written English.

7. Slight of Hand

The correct way of saying this phrase is ‘sleight of hand’ and refers to the hand tricks and finger techniques magicians and entertainers employ in their performances. This is quite logical as the word sleight means dexterity or deceitful craftiness. On the other hand, ‘slight’ should be avoided as it could be perceived as an insult to many. 

8. Shoe-in

Shoe-in is a common misspelling of the phrase ‘shoo-in’ which is a common idiom that refers to being a sure or easy winner. This phrase dates back to the early 20th century and more specifically to horse racing where jockeys would hold their horses back and shoo a preselected winner to make it to the finish line first.

9. Suppose to

It’s one of those things perfectionists and people with OCD genuinely hate. The letter ‘d’ in the word ‘suppose’ should be included to ensure that it conveys the intended message to the recipient. Without it the phrase means nothing as it is grammatically incorrect. It is a very common phrase although many people are using it wrong. This is probably because the d sounds the same as t, which doesn’t make it obvious that a ‘d’ is needed to complete the phrase.

10. Each one worse than the next

This phrase alone doesn’t make any sense. The correct way of using this idiom is ‘each one worse than the last’. This means that you have already tested a product and that you have compared it with the last one you’ve got, and that’s why you know it’s not good. ‘Each one worse than the next’ is incorrect as you won’t be able to know what the next is going to be like.

See Also: 9 Words or Phrases Millennials Should Avoid Using in the Workplace

So have you been misusing any of these common phrases all along?

If you have, not to worry, we all have done it at some point! Here’s a video featuring Steve Martin in the famous ’I would like to buy a hamburger’ scene from Pink Panther to make you feel better!

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