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GeorgeGee's avatar

Can you think of a mistake that has become standard practice?

Asked by GeorgeGee (4895 points ) June 9th, 2010

For instance in the US, we spell Aluminum incorrectly because of a typo misspelling the word “Aluminium,” but rather than fix it we now use the misspelled version.

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20 Answers

CMaz's avatar

Zenith – Arabic zamt was misread; in Latin letters, at the time, the letter i was never dotted, so “m” looked like “ni”.

perspicacious's avatar

Was royal blue hair a mistake originally?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

When speaking to a reverend…we just say “Reverend Jones” or something but actually the world reverend is not a noun, it’s an adjective…like the honorable judge X…it should be the reverend Blank Jones.

perspicacious's avatar

I read the story about the original microwave ovens. Not exactly a mistake, but they discovered that microwaves would heat food because it melted a candy bar in someone’s pocket.
http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/microwave.htm

ucme's avatar

Donald Trump’s hair? With him at least.Seriously though i’d have to say ignorance.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Is our pronunciation of “aluminum” really because of a typo? I dunno, I’d like to see some proof of that. According to Wikipedia:

The spelling aluminium is the international standard in the sciences (IUPAC). The American spelling is nonetheless used by many American scientists. Humphry Davy, the element’s discoverer, first proposed the name alumium, and then later aluminum. The name aluminium was finally adopted to conform with the -ium ending of metallic elements. Canada uses aluminum and Australia/New Zealand aluminium, according to their respective dictionaries.

A lot of the original differences between British and American English were propagated by Webster (of Webster’s Dictionary) for nationalistic purposes; to differentiate America from Britain. Also, in the early 18th century when America was first being populated, the English language was not standardized, so many spellings of words were accepted and certain ones caught on in different areas. I wouldn’t call that a mistake myself.

But that’s just me being picky.

There are, however, a lot of grammatical mistakes that have become common in modern English, such as: “I’m doing good today” versus “I’m doing well.

Jeruba's avatar

Our language is full of ‘em. @Simone_De_Beauvoir‘s excellent example is one that my mother used to harp on all the time. When you don’t use the first name, it should be “the Reverend Mr. Jones.” But I’ll bet even Mr. Jones doesn’t know that any more.

Here’s another that springs to mind:

chaise longue (“long chair”) -> “chaise lounge” (because you lounge on it—?)

The list of possible examples in English is longer than any of us wants to think about. Another one that bugs me is this: “We have to do diligence.”

The phrase is “due diligence” (all the diligence that is due—i.e., expected, appropriate, necessary), and you don’t do it, any more than you’d say that we do honesty, attention, affection, reliability, or any other noun referring to behavior. You exercise due diligence, you show it, you exert it, you perform for the sake of it, and any number of other expressions, but you don’t confuse “due” with “do.”

stratman37's avatar

One that’s about to take over is the bastardization of “I couldn’t care less”. I see/hear/read all the time where people are saying “I could care less”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Cable Television Advertising was a mistake that became an everyday mistake.

Remember long ago the promises that cable TV made to us? Since you are paying for it, there won’t be any advertising. Don’t you guys remember that? Then they started slipping in infomercials in the middle of the night. Next thing you know, there’s more commercials than there is programming. And some of the commercials try to pretend like they’re programming. And most (not all) but most of the programming just absolutely stinks like donkey vomit.

Now we pay a monthly fee to watch commercials. It’s absurd!

frdelrosario's avatar

You could fill an internet with words and phrases that are used mistakenly as a matter of standard course.

You could also fill freeways with morons who share their attention between the road and anything else.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I don’t remember that (there were already plenty of commercials on TV by the time I was born), but I do remember when Google was ad-free and YouTube didn’t have annoying pop-up ads during their videos. Alas, those days are gone.

Jeruba's avatar

@stratman37, both versions of that odd expression have been in common use since at least 1964. “I couldn’t care less” came along a little earlier, maybe by a couple of years, but the ironic positive version gained currency before I graduated from high school.

ipso's avatar

I’d vote for human life. (Not “mistake” as in a bastard child, but mistake as in genetic mutation.) Life and all its diversity is enabled by mistakes that become standard.

My second vote would be for biblical misunderstanding – like the notion of “Thou shall not kill” (as but one example) when in reality it means “~Thou shall not kill members of your tribe – but go ahead and obliterate and dismember everyone else.” Check out Deuteronomy for starters.

Thirdly I would pick Columbus calling Indians Indians. (As close as I want to get to politics – to make sure this post has religion and politics for a well rounded faux pas.)

Lastly I would go with the wabi-sabi style.

Shuttle128's avatar

The definition of negative and positive charges in electricity. Because of Ben Franklin’s honest mistake in defining negative and positive charges, electricity flows from negative to positive!

mattbrowne's avatar

Rothschild being pronounced Roths – Child

It should be Roht – Shield

Andreas's avatar

@mattbrowne That’s the translation from German(?) to English. Always a mine field for the “correct” pronunciation. Do we use the native-language pronunciation, or, in this case, the English? Decisions, decisions.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Andreas – I have no problem with the anglicization of German family names as such. Müller becomes Muller and Schneider might become Snyder and Zimmermann becomes Zimmerman with a slightly different pronunciation. Fine. The problem begins when a name is actually a compound of two words. Everyone realizes its Zimmer – man and not Zim – merman. Nobody would pronounce it Zim – merman. But exactly this happens with this alleged child of roths. And it’s wrong. Educated Americans and Brits should use the anglicized pronunciation roht – shield (which means red shield and not child of roths).

I’m not asking for the native-language pronunciation. That’s too hard for Americans. Think of all the French city names in the US.

ipso's avatar

@mattbrowne You’re a man of clarity and wisdom. Good input.

Cat4thCB's avatar

“Peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

is a misquote of Luke 2:14

” . . . upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”

Andreas's avatar

@mattbrowne Very educational, and not something I knew about the name Rothschild. Thank you. It comes to what the syllables are. Obviously they are Roth-schild and not Roths-child. That makes all the difference.

@Cat4thCB Hear, hear!

I suppose in this whole subject of mistakes/wrong pronunciations/errors that become accepted as correct we must conclude this is the effect of the dumbing down of society.

Ignorance is not bliss!

Another one I recall is the saying: Cold enough to freeze the balls OF a brass monkey. It should be; Cold enough to freeze the balls OFF a brass monkey.

This saying comes from the Royal Navy in the days of sail when cannon balls were stored on a brass device called a monkey. When the monkey got to certain low temperature the brass balls would literally fall OFF the brass monkey. But lazy speech being what is, or maybe a case of Chinese Whispers, OFF became OF. I only learned this recently.

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