General Question

Vincentt's avatar

What are some funny wrong uses of your language?

Asked by Vincentt (8079points) June 14th, 2009

As I suppose happens to all languages, wrong uses of a language may become widespread (like using literally even when it’s not literal).

What are some ways this happens in your language?

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27 Answers

Vincentt's avatar

And I’ll start with a Dutch example…

Often people in the Netherlands say “bigger if” as opposed to “bigger than”. I don’t know exactly how this came about, but a lot of people have trouble telling when to use which. (And no, it’s not because the words are similar, because they’re not: “if” is “als” and “than” is “dan”.)

MrItty's avatar

People constantly say “irregardless”, even though there’s no such word (it’s just “regardless”).

I roll my eyes every time some tells me they “could care less” (which means they do in fact care about whatever it is. The proper phrase for “I don’t care” is “I couldn’t care less”)

mcbealer's avatar

papa (which in and of itself has several different meanings) vs. papá (which means dad) in spanish

toleostoy's avatar

“Cold as hell” I think is funny. I thought it was supposed to be warm there, but maybe hell finally froze over. I’ve never been there myself, and perhaps global warming is having opposite effects in other places.

namora's avatar

@toleostoy that’s called an oxymoron.. it’s an actual literary device used to give emphasis to your statement. like icy hot, or bitter sweet…

juwhite1's avatar

“Near miss” to describe almost hitting something. If it was a near miss, that would mean you actually hit it.

ariaen's avatar

In Dutch we have nowadays a lot of milk catons around touting an improved expiry date or even a longer expiry date (verbeterde of verlengde houdbaarheidsdatum.)

it is often also quite funny to hear my Dutch friends speak English. They will often make a word too long, such as interpretator or womanizator.
(Talking to a girl and saying “I’ll be back…” I guess)

Supacase's avatar

Saying “waiting on” when you are waiting for someone. Waiting on people is what happens in restaurants.

namora's avatar

saying they/their when you dont know the gender of the person you’re talking about. “the person commented on my question. they are nice.” instead of “he/she is nice”

juwhite1's avatar

This is a regional thing, but in parts of the Midwest, people say, “You guyses,” to groups of people, regardless of the genders in the group. Not really sure why they feel the need to make this a double plural.

LexWordsmith's avatar

jumbo shrimp
freezer burn

als/dan: als seems to be cognate to English “else”, but being treated as if cognate to English “as”. possibly influenced by similarity to German “als”, meaning both “when” and “than”.

their for her/his: if it were a modern error, i would say, “unfortunately, a lost cause” because the alternatives are so awkward; but actually it is a very old usage.

Vincentt's avatar

@ariaen – heh, that bugged me as well :)

@LexWordSmith – “else” would be “anders” in Dutch, but I think you can compare it to the English “as” (not that that’s ever used instead of “than”, right? :). I never thought about the correlation to the German “als”, but that might very well play a role. It can also be a very good motivator to make people say it right, I guess :P

LexWordsmith's avatar

i forgot that “als” in German also means “as” (as in “As a physicist, he knew the truth about so-called ‘centrifugal force’.”). (wow—five punctuation marks in a row! I’dn’t’ve thought that was possible! i’m glad i’m not so much a slave to the American “period inside quotes” guideline as to be unable to ignore it [unobtrusively, of course] for the sake of clarity.) There must be lots of puns possible in German with so flexible a word.

mattbrowne's avatar

We call a cell phone a handy.

LexWordsmith's avatar

@mattbrowne : very evocative! thanks for letting me know!

toleostoy's avatar

I find it funny when people say, “I can’t wait” and then they wait. I recently heard someone say that he can’t wait to go to the beach, but he didn’t go for another week or so. “I can hardly wait” seems more appropriate.

JLeslie's avatar

@MrItty I hate irregardless. It is actually in some dictionaries as a synonym for regardless. Ridiculous.

JLeslie's avatar

There is no such word as hisself.

Some parts of the country use “next” Tuesday, when they mean a week from Tuesday. I say always use “this coming” or “a week from” never “next” to be sure you are clear. Oh, and the specific date helps.

In Memphis while I was in a museum the gentleman taking my money said, “we have exhibits both upstairs and downstairs.” I take that to mean exhibits on the floor above and the floor below (we were standing on the main floor and there was a basement level and a second level). But nothing was in the basement. For him downstairs was the main floor—the floor we were standing on.

Adagio's avatar

Some things that I have heard spoken by people whose first language is English:

How are yous? or What are yous doing?

Referring to a home laundry as a laundromat.

Instead of saying going in a car, saying going on a car.

I once had a friend who always said she was feeling non de plume when she meant nonplussed. I never had the heart to correct her, I enjoyed it too much.

Referring to more than one pair of pants as pantses. I really had to control myself when I heard that one.

I’m sure I will think of other examples. It does let me to wonder though what mistakes I make unknowingly..

LexWordsmith's avatar

Love this thread—thanks, everybody!

Vincentt's avatar

@Adagio Those are some excellent ones :)

Which reminds me – is informations correct? It really bugs me because it looks so wrong, but it’s used to frequently, too…

JLeslie's avatar

@Adagio Going on a car? By someone who’s first language is English?

LexWordsmith's avatar

my favorite mistake that i’ve made was that, until i was in twelfth grade, i thought that the spelling was “enroach” rather than “encroach.” (and i’m still not all that sure about “alchohol”<grin>).

JLeslie's avatar

@LexWordsmith just say you were drunk.

LexWordsmith's avatar

That would be superfluous. Everyone thinks that of me all the time anyway. but really i’m just uninhibited and playful! really!!!

toleostoy's avatar

I hate when people use a word that is part of an acronym. For example PIN numbers and ATM machines do not need extra words! Come on people now.

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