When used correctly, figures of speech are great tools to maneuver any conversation and convey one’s level of comprehension and wit. But when used incorrectly, this tool doesn’t kill two birds with one stone – it simply kills the conversation. Here are some commonly misinterpreted phrases you can introduce into your daily conversation toolbox.
“Play it by ear”
Commonly misheard as “play it by year,” this phrase translates to “be flexible and adjust one’s plans as necessary.” A year seems like quite a long time to be making flexible plans in advance.
This phrase speaks to a situation’s potential for debate, but lack of practical relevance. Often penned as “mute point,” it is typically misinterpreted to mean there is no point in further conversing about the topic.
“Mine of information”
Intended to mean a “wealth of undiscovered or untouched information,” this gem tends to be simplified to “a mind of information.” This is ironic because whoever says it must not have that great of a mind or mine of information.
“It’s a dog eat dog world”
Often used to illustrate the competitive disposition of nature, it is misheard as “doggy dog world” which is foolish, yet understandable. Life is ruff and it happens to the best of us.
“Beyond the pale”
This phrase refers to something that is “generally unacceptable.” Derived from historic Ireland, anything beyond the Irish Pale was under English jurisdiction and considered “not within the boundaries of civilization.” The only thing I want to see “beyond the pail” is a sandy beach meeting the ocean.
“Taking over the reins”
“Taking over the reigns” implies you are planning to force the ruling monarchs of a country to abdicate. “Reins” implies you are going to take control of the subject such as controlling a horse.
Tack refers to the direction of a ship, meaning one must pick a different direction to navigate this situation. Unlike “tact,” which many assume is an abbreviation for “tactic.”
“I couldn’t care less”
If you say you “could care less,” you are admitting that you do indeed care, and that for whatever reason, you could care less than you currently do.
“For all intents and purposes”
Although that purpose very well may be “intensive,” this phrase intends to outline the rules or guidelines for any functional purpose or practical sense within a situation.
“Nip it in the bud”
This meaning of this phrase goes terribly awry when it is misheard as “nip it in the butt.” The original phrase is defined as “addressing a situation at its inception before it flowers,” you can use your imagination for the meaning of the other one.
“Pique one’s interest”
While you can describe something as the “peak of someone’s interest,” pique is the proper verb when describing a way to attain someone’s attention.
“Champing at the bit”
“Champing” implies impatience, “chomping” is what you do when you finally sit down for thanksgiving dinner.
“Reap what you sow”
As any farmer or seamstress will tell you, sow and sew mean very different things. This phrase means one essentially deserve whatever outcomes (what you reap) come from one’s previous actions (what you sow).
IRREGARDLESS IS NOT A WORD. DON’T USE IT. SERIOUSLY.
Friendly reminder: Than is different than then, further is different than farther, and there are three different versions of “their, they’re, and there.” Additionally, “(word)’s” not only means “(word) is” but also shows possession. This is different than if the (word) ends in an ‘s’. In that case, the apostrophe moves to the outside of the ‘s’ with the option of adding an additional ‘s’. In any case, you can always use up your precious time by typing out “is,” which trust me, I am aware is a huge undertaking.
You can reach me with any comments or criticism (which I doesn’t blame you for) at firstname.lastname@example.org