10 common phrases you’re getting wrong
Workopolis has been on a bit of a grammar and spelling kick lately.
We’ve covered a fair amount of ground, including but not limited to: the confusion of “they’re,” “their,” and “there,” and of “then” and “than;” the misuse of “literally;” and when you should use “and me” instead of “and I.” But there’s still so much more.
I’ll reiterate that I am not usually a stickler for grammar in day-to-day communication. But most hiring managers are. Also, there are throngs of people out there who love to correct others and will never miss the opportunity to jump on you for a misplaced apostrophe, or a misused word or phrase. Also, you might as well get things right.
Here we look at some popular phrases that people are saying wrong – myself included, apparently.
1. “I could care less. This is the mother of all wrong phrases, and even I get crazy when people use it.
The phrase is actually “I couldn’t care less,” meaning that you care so little it is impossible that you could care less, or, simply put, you do not care at all. When phrased “I could care less about your opinion,” you’re saying that you do care and that there is room for you to care less. So, you care. That’s nice. It’s good to be caring. But you’re using the phrase wrong.
2. “For all intensive purposes.” This actually sounds sort of like it makes sense, as in, “for the purpose of the purposes that are intensive,” which sounds like it could mean something important – but it doesn’t and is not correct.
The phrase is “For all intents and purposes.” It’s adopted from a phrase found in 16th Century English law: “to all intents, constructions, and purposes,” which referred to “the state of a person’s mind that directs his or her actions toward a specific object.”
Now it means, for all practical purposes: “She looked, for all intents and purposes, like she could do the job.”
3. “You’ve got another thing coming.” This one was news to me. I discovered it just now while bopping around the web looking for misused phrases. Apparently, it’s “You’ve got another think coming,” the idea being “If you think that, you’ve got another think coming.”
I say nuts to that. Who uses “think” as a noun?
“You’ve got another thing coming,” as in “if you expect one thing, you’ve got another thing coming,” makes perfect sense to me and I will continue to use it thusly.
Also, I wonder if Judas Priest knows this.
4. “A complete 360.” This is commonly used like this: “A week after accepting the proposal, he did a complete 360 and decided to reject our offer.”
But, if he did a complete 360 degree turn, he would have come all the way back around to accepting your offer again. What he did was a 180 degree turn, and landed facing in the opposite direction.
He did “a complete 180.”
5. “Jive with.” This one has me confounded, but I am including it for the sake of discussion. I’ve been saying “That doesn’t jive with what I heard,” for years. The internet is now telling me the correct term is “jibe with.” But that doesn’t make sense. The jive is a dance, so you can see “jive with” as meaning “dance with” or “work with” or “be in accord with.”
To “jibe” doesn’t actually mean “agree with” or “be in accord with.” It means to mock or insult, or to change course. Only in the context of this phrase is it said to mean “be in accord with.” So, I call foul (unlike calling “fowl” which would mean to hail a chicken) on this one and will continue to use “jive with.”
6. “It’s a doggy dogg world.” The third single off Snoop Dogg’s 1993 debut album is a “Doggy Dogg World.” What we live in is a “dog eat dog world.”
Example: “It’s a dog eat dog world out there and competition for jobs is fierce. So, you better be on your game.”
This phrase is used to demonstrate that it’s a rough world out there, where dogs will cannibalize other dogs (though dogs actually aren’t cannibals in most cases).
7. “On tender hooks.”. Again, at first this sort of seems to make sense – if you take “tender” to mean something akin to “soft” which could translate to “thin” or precarious…it’s a stretch…but it’s there if you look for it. Or maybe you’re thinking something butcher related…meat, tender, meathook…I don’t know.
Regardless (see below), a “tender hook” actually isn’t a real thing.
The expression is a reference to hooks used for stretching in the making of woolen cloth.
The correct phrase is “on tenterhooks,” which means to be in a state of tension (like the stretched cloth), uneasiness, or anxiety.
Example: “I was on tenterhooks over whether or not the deal would go through.”
8. “Runner ups.” There are no “runner ups” for the position you were looking to fill (or for the title of Miss Penitentiary [yes, it really is a thing. In Brazil!]). There are “runners up.” The contestants/subjects are the runners. Not the ups.
9. “Nip it in the butt.” I’ve never heard this one used as such, again. But I’m informed by the internet that it’s a common error.
A puppy might nip you in the butt. What we want to do when using this phrase is stop something before it gets out of hand, or de-bud the plant before the flower grows. Or, to be specific “nip it in the bud.”
Example: “There’s some office gossip about you and the CEO at the holiday party going around. If I were you I’d want to nip it in the bud.”
10. “Irregardless.” While this is a word (and it’s not even that, really), rather than a phrase, it’s worth noting for its rampant usage. No matter how many, or how loudly, people rail against it, “irregardless” will continue to rear its ugly head.
Here’s the thing: To “regard” means “to pay attention to” while the suffix “less” means “without.” So, “regard” + “less” = “regardless,” which means “without paying attention to” or “despite.”
The prefix “ir” is added to negate a word, to mean “not.” Therefore “ir” + “regardless” = “irregardless” or “not without paying attention to” or, in other words, “factoring in.”
Whatever it is you think you’re factoring out, you’re actually factoring in.
“Irregardless what the boss thinks…” actually means “Taking into account what the boss thinks…”
What I’m trying to say is that the word you want is “regardless.”
What phrases do you regularly hear people get wrong?