Melanie Dyann Howe

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15 Common Words and Phrases You're Probably Saying Incorrectly

From commas and hyphens to spelling and capitalization, grammar is hard. While it can be difficult to remember AP style rules and definitions, there are lots of common grammar mistakes you can avoid just by understanding a little context.

If you didn’t already know the correct pronunciation of these 15 common words and phrases, you do now! Go forth and sound smart!

1. For all intensive purposes → For all intents and purposes

This phrase is commonly used to indicate that two things are, for all practical purposes, the same. For example, “My phone was ruined by the rain. For all intents and purposes, it’s just a pile of plastic and metal.”

2. Supposably → Supposedly

Supposed means “assumed as true.” Say “supposedly” three times fast and you can see how the incorrect pronunciation came about, but it’s still wrong.

3. Irregardless → Regardless

Next time you want to put an end to a discussion, remember it’s just “regardless.” Irregardless simply isn’t a word.

4. Could care less → Couldn’t care less

The phrase 'I couldn't care less’ suggests that you don't care at all, and therefore, could not care any less. When the phrase is misspoken as ‘I could care less,’ it indicates that you do, in fact, care, and therefore could decrease your level of care.

5. Of upmost importance → of utmost importance

Utmost means “of the greatest or highest degree,” whereas “upmost” would indicate the “uppermost” object (i.e. the one that is “highest in place or order”).

6. It’s a mute point → It’s a moot point

Moot is an odd-sounding word that means irrelevant or obsolete. Mute means unable to speak. Once you know the definitions, the debate on how to pronounce this phrase becomes a moot point.

7. Nip the problem in the butt → Nip the problem in the bud

To “nip a problem in the bud” means to put an end to it while it is still small (like nipping a flower bud before it is able to bloom). I’m not exactly sure what it means to “nip something in the butt,” but it will likely only make your problem worse.

8. Case and point → Case in point

“Case” means an instance or occurrence, so “case in point” refers to an instance or example that illustrates what is being discussed.

9. Should of → Should have

This phrase is easy to misinterpret when speaking quickly, but it is always ‘could have,’ ‘would have, and ‘should have.’ The common saying “coulda, woulda, shoulda” refers to one wishing they could, would or should have done something differently.

10. Hunger pains → Hunger pangs

Pangs are sharp spasms of pain. While “hunger pains” does, therefore, make sense, the original phrase is “hunger pangs.”

11. You have another thing coming → You have another think coming

This mispronunciation is so common, you’ll find arguments touting its accuracy. However, the entire meaning of the phrase is “if you think that, then your thought is wrong and you need to have another one” (i.e. another think).

12. Doggy-dog world → Dog-eat-dog world

In 43 BC, Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro compared humanity to animals, saying that even a dog (wild animal) will not eat a dog. The phrase “it’s a dog-eat-dog world” implies that a wild animal will, in fact, eat another of its species if it must — either you destroy your competitors or they will destroy you.

I’m not sure what anyone thinks a “doggy-dog world” is, but it certainly sounds much happier.

13. One in the same → One and the same

Yet another phrase mispronounced when speaking quickly, “one and the same” indicates that two things are exactly alike. “One in the same” might make sense as meaning a thing is inside itself, but it is widely viewed as a misspelling.

14. Escape goat → A scapegoat

While goats do have a knack for escaping, a “scapegoat” is one who is blamed or punished for the faults of others. So, they are actually not escaping anything, but rather facing undue blame.

15. Butt naked → Buck naked

This one’s up for debate, but the original term was “buck naked” and referred to being completely naked. Proponents of this phrase argue that “butt naked” would imply a naked butt rather than an entirely naked body.

Now you know! But, it can definitely be hard to keep all these grammar rules straight. Download Grammarly for assistance with grammar, punctuation and all-around proofreading help!

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