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DominicX's avatar

What are some words you always hear misused?

Asked by DominicX (28584 points ) October 22nd, 2012

And I’m not talking you’re/your or any of that crap :)

I mean, as for actually hearing people say these words in the wrong contexts. I was trying to think of which are the most commonly misused.

For example, when people say “ironic” when they mean “coincidental” or when people use “vapid” to mean “empty/vacuous” when it really means “dull”.

What are some other examples?

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64 Answers

DigitalBlue's avatar

Grammar is not my strength, but I hate hearing people use the word “addicting” in place of “addictive.”
I’m still not even entirely sure that it is incorrect, I just hate it.

Tachys's avatar

Irregardless. I can’t stand it.

DominicX's avatar

@DigitalBlue Yeah, that’s a tricky one. As far as I know, they are synonymous (both adjectives—one just happens to be a verbal adjective), but in common usage, people tend to see “addictive” as more negative, I suppose. You wouldn’t say someone has an “addicting personality” because that would mean their personality is appealing and makes you want to become addicted to it, whereas “addictive personality” means “personality characterized by tendency toward addiction”. But I think in theory, they’re supposed to be synonymous.

@Tachys I don’t think it’s possible to misuse a non-word :) At least I hope more people consider it a non-word…

Tachys's avatar

Irregardless, the word itself is a misuse of English. :)

SpatzieLover's avatar

Accrossed. <—This is big here in the Midwest. Here, it is considered a word <sigh>

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

There was a time when the OED listed the first definition of the word disingenuous as naive. When it became faddish a few years ago for media people to use it ad nauseum to describe someone who was insincere, it really bothered me. Then I checked a new OED and saw that the definition had been changed, that insincere had been moved to the first definition and naive to number three. I’m more careful now. Things change. And it sometimes irks me.

Then there’s alot for a lot and insure used instead of ensure.

Mariah's avatar

“Comprised.”

rojo's avatar

I hate it when people use the word “Y’all” as plural.

Everyone know the plural tense is “All Y’all”

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Whom. That’s all I’m going to say.

Mariah's avatar

Oh god I just thought of a much worse offender: “random.”

Kardamom's avatar

Mortified It means embarrassed and humilated, but my aunt thinks it means horrified as do plenty of other folks. My brother always asks her, “Hey Auntie, why were you mortified when you saw the robbers break into you car? Did you have naughty lingerie and marijuana joints in the trunk?” She always looks flummoxed.

Seen As in the sentence, ” I seen the Presidential debate on TV tonight.” Although I find that hard to believe, that my cousin watched the debate, considering the use of the word “seen..”

Sunny2's avatar

“unique” used with really, very, one of the most, and other modifiers. Unique means one of a kind. It can’t be modified. Something either is or is not unique.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Awesome, even if I am guilty of this one myself.

wildpotato's avatar

Decimate. No one ever means “reduce by ten percent” when they say it.

However, I just checked the official definition and it looks as though this is another example like @Espiritus_Corvus,’ where it seems the meaning grew over time to include and even prioritize the common usage.

Jeruba's avatar

There are many. Here’s a common one: confusion between “incidence” and “instance.”

A lot of people, even well-educated authors, seem to think that “compendious” means comprehensive or exhaustive. It sounds as if it should, doesn’t it? But a compendium is a summary or a brief version of something.

I hear and see frequent misuses of “subscribe” in place of “ascribe” and “prescribe” in place of “subscribe.” You ascribe a quality to someone, you subscribe to a theory or idea, and you prescribe an action or kind of behavior, just for example. And you proscribe something you want to forbid.

The meaning of “surreal” seems to be evolving into something like “strange” or “extraordinary.” That one’s probably lost now, like “awesome” before it and a long list of other once-useful expressions that have turned into slang synonyms for something good or impressive. They’ve become completely trivialized, not to mention distorted, in the process.

augustlan's avatar

I used to know a teacher who regularly used the wrong words while talking, completely unaware that she was doing it. “Medallion” for “battalion”, for instance. Or, “I just saw thunder!” Oh, and she said “Valentimes”. With an “m”. Ick.

I’m totally guilty of over-using “awesome”. Can’t get the 80s out of me, sorry!

ucme's avatar

Literally & genius, shut the fuck up!!

rooeytoo's avatar

Just about everything that came out of Norm Crosby’s mouth…...

Norm Crosby King of the malaprop, Norm always speaks from his ‘diagram’ and drinks ‘decapitated’ coffee.

ragingloli's avatar

Recently, “patriot”, “socialist”, “communist”, “anti american colonial”

SuperMouse's avatar

I (hyperbolically) hear people at least hourly saying how their head literally exploded. Really? Literally exploded? I’m pretty sure that one would have made the news.

While we’re at it, your cat scratching the couch is not ironic. “Love is like oxygen” is not a metaphor. If you could care less about something, that thing must mean something to you. Now if you could not care less that thing literally means nothing to you.

CWOTUS's avatar

insure / ensure
reign / rein (as in “free reign”, instead of “free rein”)
effect / affect (“the movie had no affect on me”; “I was not effected by the movie”—both wrong)

And those are just the ones I’m thinking of in the first hour that I’m awake. I have no doubt that I’ll encounter another dozen or so through the day.

bookish1's avatar

imply vs infer.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Winston Churchill on ending a sentence with a preposition:

“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

The American Heritage Book of English Usage agrees. And that settles that.

DominicX's avatar

All great examples :)

@SuperMouse Reminds me of when people use “of” to mean “have” as in “I could of done that”. I’ll fight against that one, but I see it written out more now…it’s depressing…

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

“I could care less.” Oh, could you now?

“My doctor subscribed a new medication for my…” Did you pass 4th grade?

And it makes me itch when people say “I seen” instead of “I saw” or “I’ve seen.”

CWOTUS's avatar

I love not the way some people leave out the verb forms of “to be” as in:

Those dishes need cleaned.
The clothes need washed.

wildpotato's avatar

“4-draw dresser” makes me wince. Lots of those on craigslist.

Sunny2's avatar

Incorrect pronoun usage: “The gift was for him and I.” Me and Sally went to the movies” Just today I heard, “Him and me are meeting tomorrow afternoon.” Mind you, this was from a person with a PhD in economics.” I wish I could turn off my despair at hearing this.

Brian1946's avatar

One that I encounter quite often is the superfluous use of got as a possessive or an imperative word; e.g., “I’ve got a car”.

My understanding is that have in the aforementioned example shows possession, so that one only has to say, “I have a car”, not “I have got a car”.

Mariah's avatar

@Brian1946 To my understanding, that one is not necessarily incorrect, I think it’s kind of a Britishism.

Jeruba's avatar

@Sunny2, I agree. I heard teachers correcting those pronoun errors long ago when I was a little girl in grade school; generation after generation is perpetuating them. I have to admit that I’m a little surprised whenever I hear the correct usage.

But here’s one I never heard until recently, just in the last few years, and it always astonishes me, as if someone had walked up and slapped my face: “I’s,” as in “my wife and I’s favorite restaurant.” Would that person really say “I’d like you to meet I’s son” or “Excuse me, but I think you’re sitting in I’s seat”? Where in the world did this come from? They don’t even say “me’s.” It’s as if the use of “I” were somehow proper enough to invoke immunity, exactly as some people use “whom” (for example, “Do you know anyone whom has more than ten children?”).

ragingloli's avatar

Knock knock.
Who’ there?
To.
To who?
To whom, surely!

rojo's avatar

Probably just a regional dialect but to me it doesn’t sound right; “Proud” being used in place of glad. Example: “I sure am proud that he wasn’t yelling at me!”

bookish1's avatar

I sure am proud glad that this thread wasn’t about words misused in writing… I’m just about to grade midterms!

Sunny2's avatar

@ragingloli How did Shirley get into the picture?

bookish1's avatar

ascribe, proscribe, prescribe, subscribe. THEY DON’T ALL MEAN THE SAME THING DANG NABBIT!

DominicX's avatar

@Jeruba I’ve seen the “I’s” phenomenon as well. It seems that rather than attaching the possessive clitic to both parts of the noun phrase as in “my wife’s and my”, they attach the clitic to the end of the phrase as if the phrase were a single word. I see this more with things like “the girl I saw yesterday’s book”.

Mariah's avatar

@DominicX What is correct in that situation? “The girl’s I saw yesterday book”? That can’t be right can it?

DominicX's avatar

It is correct. There’s no other way to say it. In some languages, you’d say the equivalent of “the book of the girl I saw yesterday”, which is possible in English, but sounds a little off. With a long phrase like “the girl I saw yesterday”, you have to attach the possessive clitic to the end of the phrase, even if the head of the phrase (which is “girl”) isn’t the end. I guess the difference with “my wife and I’s” is the fact that there already is a possessive form of “I” (my) and “I’s” is unnecessary.

Kardamom's avatar

Just hope all y’all’s don’t have to get no prostrate exam!

Mariah's avatar

@DominicX Oh god that’s so weird, haha. Thanks for clarifying!

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’m glad you axed this question @DominicX. ;)

rojo's avatar

“Family values” – constantly misused and abused.

DominicX's avatar

@rojo That may be my #1 most hated phrase in all of English. It actually makes me sick :)

rooeytoo's avatar

I’m joining the I hate family values group!!!

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

All-timer’s Disease for Alzheimer’s Disease. I hear this coming from nurses, for chrissakes. I never say anything, though. I live in the South, dammit. You start into something like this and it’ll never end.

bookish1's avatar

Reporting from the murky swamps of Midtermia:

“repressed” is not the same thing as “suppressed,” nor “oppressed,” but my students think so and it’s gotten me de-pressed :-p

rooeytoo's avatar

@bookish1 – If you asked me I would have said repress and suppress can be used interchangeably but now that I think about it, there are specific instances where one would be appropriate and the other not so much. But they are pretty darned close!

Jeruba's avatar

@bookish1, you’ll have to impress the difference on them—without oppressing them.

CWOTUS's avatar

whose and who’s

I seem to be running across this almost daily now. Mostly, it seems, people seem to have forgotten that there is a “whose”, which refers to possession:

Who’s shoe is this? – NO
Whose shoe is this? – Yes

bookish1's avatar

@CWOTUS : Dude, I’m not sure they’re even teaching the possessive… or grammar… in public schools anymore… Many of my student’s just sort of throw apostrophe’s in aimlessly… Its dis’piriting!

Jeruba's avatar

The question was about hearing, though. You can’t hear those differences in spelling. I think a lot of the ignorant usages we hear and see are attributable to watching television and not reading. When people try to repeat what they’ve heard without knowing (or comprehending) what was actually said, and when they try to write it down without ever having read it, some appalling substitutions can occur. Just a random example: one engineer overheard saying to another, “If that happens, all butts are off.”

Here’s another example: asking for something scientific to be explained “in lamense terms.” Clearly the writer appears to be trying to approximate the spelling of a heard expression, knowing its use in context without having a concept of the actual meaning of the word.

CWOTUS's avatar

Okay then, @Jeruba. You’re right. Here’s one that offends the eyes and the ears:

I could of done better if I would of planned better.

And you know you can hear the difference between the perfectly acceptable “could’ve” and “would’ve” and the constructions above.

Jeruba's avatar

Totally agree, @CWOTUS. And that second construction hits me twice: once for the “of” and once for the replacement of the correct “if I had” with “if I would have/of.”

AshlynM's avatar

Axed -asked
Idear – idea
Melty – melted ( I hear this all the time on fast food commercials and it drives me nuts)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Warsh for wash. Warshington State.
Wooder instead of water (Pennsylvania, northern NY?).

ragingloli's avatar

Or ‘wader’ instead of ‘water’

morphail's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I don’t know which OED you have, but the OED Online only has one definition for “disingenuous”: Lacking in candour or frankness, insincere, morally fraudulent.

@Jeruba “compendious” does mean “comprehensive”: Merriam-Webster’s Dicitonary of English Usage page 269. Also, you may be interested in eggcorns.

morphail's avatar

@DominicX with “my wife and I’s favourite restaurant”, the genitive clitic is not unnecessary. We have two conjoined nouns: “my wife” and “I”, and the genitive attaches to the end of the phrase. The presence of the possessive “my” is not relevant.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@morphail
That may be true online, but the edition I used in the early ‘70s had naive as the first def and the library hardcopy I looked into a couple of years ago had naive as the second def.

morphail's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I’m skeptical that you were looking in the OED. My understanding is that the OED doesn’t edit or remove entries (unless to correct a mistake). It’s a historical dictionary, which means it lists all meanings a word has had, even if they are no longer in use.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Well, I’m not going to beat this to death, so maybe I have early Altzeimer’s. That’s the way I remember it.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

“Surreal.”

Incorrect usage makes me want to punch someone.

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