Words and Phrases you Didn’t Know that you Didn’t Know

These words piss me offGod, you know, there are some phrases and words that people say incorrectly that REALLY piss me off. Today’s post is going to cover some of those common mistakes that people never even know or think about. So the next time you want to say “anyways,” “towards,” “used to” and “could care less,”  you’ll know if you’re right or wrong.

Verbal vs. Written words

The written form is much more severe than the verbal form in the sense that it’s written. It’s there forever. If you fudge up, people will notice it. If you mispronounce a word, it’s fleeting–people hardly notice. If you spell a word incorrectly, that will come back and haunt you. However, since people tend to be more comfortable verbally, they tend to write “slang” terminology or mess up simple words or phrases. Let’s take a look at some of these words.

Anyways

People say this a lot in conversation when they’re trying to change a topic. “Anyways…so I went to the mall today.” I think it might have spawned because people used it with “so.” Put it together you have “Anywayso” which molded into anyways. Anyway basically means “nonetheless.” It’s not really a transitional word like “however,” or “although.” Instead of the example I had before, you would use it more like, “I was really busy today, but I went to the mall anyway.” While it’s becoming more acceptable, it’s frowned upon in formal writing.

Towards

Ok, I’ll be technical. Both toward and towards are correct. BUT (there’s always a but!) towards is British English. Since I know I have readers from all over the world, think about how you spell most words. Do you use “gray,” or “grey?” “Color” or “colour?” “Theater” or “theatre?” “Center” or “centre?” If you typically use the former spellings, that’s American English and you should be using toward. If you typically use the latter spellings, that’s British English and you should be using towards. So all of you Americans that say towards, no one will beat you with a stick over it, but you should be using toward!

Used to

I see this a lot in student essays. While I view this as an informal phrase that should be avoided in academic writing, sometimes it just comes up and you don’t know how to get rid of it. If this is the case, you might as well do it correctly, right? Right. Used to always has a “d.” Simple as that. People commonly put “use to” because the “d” and “t” sounds run together and become hard to distinguish. Just like other words that add an -ed to become past tense, use adds a -d. For example, “I used to dance.” That means at one point I danced but no longer do. Rock on.

Could care less

You know what really grinds my gears (to quote Family Guy)? People who say they “could care less.” Ok, the phrase is supposed to mean “I don’t care.” Let’s think of this logically then. If you say, “I could care less” that means to some extent you DO care and that you could care for a lesser amount. The proper terminology is “couldn’t care less.” Essentially–“There is no possible way I could care less than I do right now.” So yeah, do it right 😛

The end

Ok, that’s the end of this post but I KNOW there’s many other words and phrases out there that people screw up all the time. Be sure to comment and ask me questions so that I can help you! Good luck!

Posted in Grammar Quick Fix.

6 Comments

  1. “Could care less”

    Yeah, this is the one that really drives me bonkers. Too many people use this in place of the correct phrase, even in the entertainment world where (I thought…) educated writers were responsible for the scripts.

  2. What if I use a conglomeration of the American/English versions. I spell grey, color, theatre, center. Honestly, I split 50/50 with the towards/toward spelling habit. I blame foreign child-hood friends, and multiple foreign students staying with my family while growing up for the schizophrenic spelling habits.

    • Haha, I’m actually slightly similar–I always spell “theater” as “theatre.” In that retrospect, I would probably consider where you live to determine whether to use “toward” or “towards.” The main reason I included it in this post is that a lot of students I run into actually believe they’re different words with different meanings. The only “meaning” is if you’re British or American! 😉

  3. “For all intents and purposes” gets messed up ALOT and people say “for all intensive purposes” which sounds SUPER important, but is actually incorrect.
    Another one that people seem to be butchering daily now that I’m paying attention more to it is “Seeing as how” or “seeing as”, as in “I would never do that seeing as how[…]”… People say a million things to replace that one… “seems how I…”, “seen as how”, “scene is how…” I can’t stand it.

  4. What is the correct word for when you are working out an idea or problem? Is it “fleshing out” or “flushing out”? I hear “flushing out” all the time but someone told me it was “fleshing out” such as in “fleshing out the idea”. Or am I wrong altogether?

    • Fleshing out! Really weird and creepy, but ‘fleshing’ would be to put flesh on something–giving it weight and substance. ‘Flushing out’ is a different thing–e.g. trying to get a cat come out from behind a couch by blocking off one end.

      So they’re both idiomatic phrases, but the one you’re looking for is ‘fleshing’!

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