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Dutchess_III's avatar

What words, or combinations of words, do people use in an effort to sound more intelligent and educated, when, in fact, their usage of those words or phrases are wrong?

Asked by Dutchess_III (46938points) June 10th, 2011

For example, people use the word “sodium” when referring to salt. However, by itself sodium is a metal. There are many different kinds of salt and lots of them don’t even HAVE sodium as part of their make up. Plus you mix sodium with other elements and get compounds that are nothing like salt. So why do people use the word sodium when referring to salt?

Are there other words, or phrases that people use incorrectly?

I always get scart asking questions like this because some grammar nabu is gonna come in and point out just such an error in my question!

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29 Answers

Mariah's avatar

I have an ex-boyfriend who always used to overuse “whom;” he’d say it in situations where “who” is proper. It was so irritatingly pretentious sounding, haha.

“Irregardless” is, imo, just a horrific attempt to try to make a “big” word bigger.

thorninmud's avatar

People often misuse the term “begs the question” as meaning “raises the question”, when it actually refers to a specific kind of logical fallacy.

tom_g's avatar

Not sure if this is really what you are asking, but I can’t seem to get through a day without hearing people use the phrase, “at the end of the day.”

I find that it has become a tool for people who feel that their argument has failed, and they need a way out.

“I hear what you are saying, but at the end of the day I still believe that global climate change is not anthropogenic.”

I translate the above….

“I understand that my argument is garbage, and you are correct. However, I am still going to hold my original position because I am incapable of changing my mind or admitting that I am incorrect.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@thorninmud I didn’t quite understand that link. Could you give us a couple of sentences using “begs the question,” and “raises the question” properly?

FluffyChicken's avatar

I was in a restaurant once, and the waiter used the phrase “varietal of fish.” I about died trying not to laugh.

nikipedia's avatar

“Penultimate” to mean “the very best.”

WasCy's avatar

I get tired of people using the abbreviation i.e. when they really mean e.g.

rebbel's avatar

….well, wasn’t it Freud who already stated that…..
Oscar Wilde once said that yada yada yada
Although people who say these things probably don’t mean it that way, to me it always sounds as if they want to show that they are well read or intellectual.
And as if they were classmates.

WasCy's avatar

@rebbel I’m surprised at that. I do it to provide attribution, so that someone doesn’t think that I’m trying to take the credit for a bon mot or aphorism.

zenvelo's avatar

@Mariah beat me to irregardless. I hear a lot of people misuse paradigm. “It’s just a new paradigm.”

People do use sodium though because the salt breaks down in the body, and it is the sodium that affects one’s health. Foods are labeled for sodium content, not salt content.

rebbel's avatar

@WasCy I am really sure you do (provide attribution), that’s why i said that people who say these things probably don’t mean it that way.
It just sounds like it to my ears.

thorninmud's avatar

Sorry, had to do some actual work

@Dutchess_III So the misuse would go something like this: “Mitt Romney opposes Obama’s national health care plan, which begs the question of why he supported an almost identical measure when he was governor of Massachusetts”.

A proper example of begging the question:
“It says in the Bible that God exists. Since the Bible is God’s word, and God never speaks falsely, then everything in the Bible must be true. So, God must exist.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@thorninmud thank you!

@WasCy Edjacte me…what are the differences between i.e. and e.g. and how are they used properly?

@zenvelo I’ve been wondering about exactly that…does it break down in the body? Does water break down into the element O and H in the body?

Mariah's avatar

@Dutchess_III Water doesn’t break down, but table salt (NaCl) does. It all has to do with the volatity of the molecule; NaCl is a very volatile substance. It’s been a few years since I took chemistry so feel free to correct me – this would be a hilarious thread to make a mistake like this in!

Berserker's avatar

I was going to try and sound all intellectual by mentioning what @rebbel said about folks using famous thinkers quotes; Yeah, people paraphrasing some other fucker.

Until I looked up ’‘paraphrase’’ and realized it isn’t the proper word for that. I was just about had haha.

There was this guy once, in a rooming house I lived in, who used the word pretentious to describe how much of a slob everyone in the place was. I thought that was pretty funny. Nothing that I’ve observed seems to happen regularly though. One thing which is a bit related…phrases which people often use in certain situations. Things like ’‘stop acting like a child’’ on heated forum discussions, whether or not it’s even warranted.

I’m sure I do it all the time though, use words in the wrong menaing. I often use big words like ’‘prominent’’ and all, but I do this to try and explain things without having to make huge ass paragraphs. Sometimes certain words can cover a lot. I think? If anyone ever notices me doing what this question asks, let me know, if you think about it.

WasCy's avatar


i.e. is Latin id est, or “that is”. It’s when you want to say “the one”. So: My son, i.e., “The Jackal”, will eat anything.

e.g. is Latin exempli gratiā, or “for example”. It’s used when you want to show “one of several possible cases”. So: Most teenage boys, e.g., my son, will eat whatever is in front of them.

If I had used the wrong term in each case you can see how wrong it would appear now, right?

FutureMemory's avatar

When people use ignorant as a general assessment of someone’s intelligence (“you know something, you’re real ignorant!”).

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thanks! You know, every time I use i.e. I think “that is,” and I guess I was right in my usage!

AmWiser's avatar

Like ‘I always get scart’. SCART just threw me for a loop. I’m still trying to figure it out. Care to splain?

Brian1946's avatar


I think “scart” might be Kansanian for scared.

Brian1946's avatar

I think in the cops and robbers slapstick movies of the 30’s and 40’s, there was the cliche of the dumb criminal on the witness stand invoking his 5th Amendment rights by saying, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might ‘incinerate’ (instead of incriminate) myself”. ;-p

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah…“scart” = scared. :)

FluffyChicken's avatar

@Dutchess_III No, he was just a pretentious moron.

lonelydragon's avatar

@FluffyChicken I actually saw “varietal” in a blurb on a wine bottle label recently.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@lonelydragon “Varietal” is indeed a word. It describes a wine that is made of a single kind of grape. It was probably correct on the label. It has nothing to do with fish though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We often eat breakfast on Saturdays at a local diner. Have for years. Have the same waitresses. One morning (or afternoon) the waitress came up to the table and said, to me, “Good morning monsieur! What can I get you?”
I said, “Wait! Rick is monsieur. I’m mademoiselle…wait. No I’m not. I’m married to monsieur over there. I’m just madam. But I’m not a hooker.” She just looked at me dumb founded!

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