Man thinking it's a doggy-dog world

10 common phrases you’re getting wrong

Elizabeth Bromstein|

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 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.”

Got it?

What phrases do you regularly hear people get wrong?

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  • Emma Cohen

    I appreciate this article but would have preferred to see the correct phrases in bold rather than the incorrect phrases for easier skimming.

    • Ruth Elizabeth Bromstein

      Yes but this way I made you read the whole thing!

    • LalloFlingo

      I think you’re being a bit picky, Emma. And Ruth is right. Or, write, Or, rite. I’m not sure …

  • Mike Walmsley

    Great observations! I think that in general people get lazy with language……..
    One term I really dislike, although I don’t think it,s wrong is “Segway.” As in, “I am going to use this phrase to Segway into the next topic.”
    Little T, some great phrases there!

    • jordan684

      I think the word is spelled “seque” – in Italian it means “follows”

    • jordan684

      oh duh, it’s spelled “segue” – no “q” :)

  • Cathy Booth-Smith

    Also, saying her or him when it should be she or he. For example: Her and her son when to the store yesterday. This should be: She and her son went… Why? Remove ” “and her son” from the sentence and it should still sound correct. Her went to the store yesterday. No, she went to the store yesterday. Her son went to the store yesterday. She and her son went to the store yesterday. Sure, it’s not a phrase that has been misheard or misused, but it’s still a problem.

  • Emily Brewes

    My friend’s former boss has said the following:
    “It’s just not tangible at this time” (I think he meant feasible)
    “labtop bags” (laptop)
    “I just can’t phantom that” (fathom… he meant fathom)
    If you want some great examples of these kinds of mistakes, check out the YouTube series Your Grammar Sucks (YGS). There are some truly epic language fails out there.

  • David Gay

    Judas Priest song came into my head when I read “3. “You’ve got another thing coming.” “

  • LalloFlingo

    Oh goodie! A chance to sound off on this topic. One that bugs the daylights out of me is the misuse of “exasperate” when what the person really means is “exacerbate”. Gets me every time! Have fun, folks.

  • LalloFlingo

    Good job! Stupidity abounds. 😉

  • Kelley Hirst

    You forgot to “ax someone a question” or my personal favorite–“Spanish Flamingo Dancers” (Flamenco Dancers)

    • Rob

      Great one Kelley. I hear this one all the time and it drives me crazy. Read your other comments and I for one prefer to work with or for someone who is confident in their direction and abilities. It inspires me, and others too I’m sure to be great. No need to worry about being a “Bossy Pants” Woman.

  • James

    For #3 I’ve only heard “You’ve got another thought coming”, which could be a modernized version I guess.
    Also good: “lost litre” for “loss leader”

  • cath

    This one used to bug me, but I’ve gotten over it. It doesn’t actually mean “figuratively,” it’s an intensifier (like “really” or “very much,” etc.) that is used with figurative expressions. It’s a kind of hyperbole, as in “this figurative expression was so true of me/them/the situation that it actually became literal” (which of course, happened only figuratively). In essence, “literally” is being used figuratively.

    • Simon Cohen

      Ha! The saddest part about this particular example is that if enough people use an expression incorrectly, an authority like the OED will eventually sanction that use: Which proves that even if two wrongs don’t make a right, several millions wrongs can change a language.

  • Deborah Milton

    This one really bugs me. Online (and print for that matter) organizations who deal with sewing have adopted the made-up word “sewist” instead of “sewer”, apparently because they think sewers don’t want to be associated with sewage operations. I’ve never heard anything quite so ridiculous in my life!

  • Kathleen Saville

    How about “seen”. This is my pet peeve, when people say “Oh, I seen him yesterday”. No, no, no!!! It’s saw – “I saw him yesterday”. Drives me crazy.

  • Zabber

    I get particularly annoyed by…’Ekcetera’. There is no ‘k’ in ‘et cetera’.

  • Randy

    I love languages and English is the most complicated and in my opinion, the best. I looked online for the etymology of jive and jibe according to one website jive is a mistake dating from 1943 and jibe was the correct version dating from 1813, a nautical reference as Mr. Cohen suspected see: and

  • Mike Walmsley

    A very good reference check is Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage, from Oxford Press. So many of these examples are just bad grammar

    • AngiePangie

      You’re right Mike. I’m off topic and venting, but I just can’t help myself!

  • Oldcamerman

    Where did you get that from about the word reasonableness : “there is no such word”? It is found in every dictionary I looked in including Oxford.

  • Roustam

    If I were an employer I wouldn’t appreciate if the candidate for one or another position makes habit of using the phrase “Who cares”

  • Roustam

    You are hired for top manager!:)

    • AngiePangie

      Hey thanks, Roustam!

  • AngiePangie

    If I would of went there, which I won’t go in a million years, the grammar police would of came and arrested me.

  • Linda Sauer

    It should be “what phrases do you regularly hear people getting
    wrong”, not “get wrong”

  • Linda Sauer

    Recently the Kitchener-Waterloo Record had someone “plumbing the “heights'”. Would like to know how they think someone is going to plumb “up”. The less/fewer mistake is really annoying. When did we start saying pleaded guilty? Did one readed the book yesterday?

  • David Lloyd-Jones


    Good work. Instead of the usual flying prune, accept, please, this plum, and keep the silver salver.

    …and an oxymoron is not a contradiction. Quite the opposite, an oxymoron is a phrase having a new meaning made out of the union of two apparent opposites. Bittersweet, which is neither bitter, nor sweet, is the traditional example.

    The other word that re-entered American English at the same time and by the same route, two Time-Life guys drinking in Hurleys, is lagniappe. Here the oddity is that it is generally used correctly, to mean a freebie.

    Before it vanished from use, back in the late 1800’s it was used falsely, for the hard roll you were served automatically when you sat down in a New Orleans oyster house. You were supposed to think it was free, but it cost you a nickel or someplaces a quarter, whether you wanted it or not.

    Etymologically (not “entomologically,” that’s bugs, think ants) it is probably based on the Quechua word yapa meaning “something added, a gift. This makes it a rarity, something we didn’t ruin from the American natives.

    Granny Grammar
    Prune-Faced Grammarian.

  • Terrence Sutherland

    and an udder thing… i think that one is just gross 😀

  • cupotea

    “It’s deja vu all over again”. ‘All over again’ is redundant.

    “At this point in time..” ‘In time’ is also redundant!

  • fiat

    “Would of…” would have…

  • nurglitch

    Also: “at the end of the day,” and “going forward.”

  • Usman

    “Could you repeat that again?” (again is redundant) unless you want it repeated for the 2nd time…

  • Natalie

    ‘It is a mute point.’ NO, IT IS NOT IT IS A MOOT POINT. dammit.

  • Sailorgirl

    Jive with – no no no – try ancient nautical terminology – “jibe with” – jibing is a sailing term still used today – it’s the opposite of tacking the boat or moving the boat through the wind. Jibing is more dangerous and often knocks people out accidentally when the boom swings across the boat out of control (hence – we do controlled jibes). So – in all likely hood sailors were trying to get people to “jibe with” rather than “jibing against….”

  • GrnChirpa

    You’ve missed unique or rather _______________ unique, as in most unique or rather unique et cetera. No such qualifier can be correct as by definition a thing is singular (unique) or it is not, there can be no gradation!