10 Things You're Saying That Make you Sound Dumb
No one wants to make a fool of themselves in front of colleagues, friends or family, but sometimes using a word or phrase incorrectly can make you do just that. The smartest people can sound downright dumb if they don’t know how to express themselves properly. In this article I’ve listed ten commonly used phrases that are completely incorrect, so you can steer clear of them and avoid sounding uneducated.
10. "Nip it in the butt."
This is a common mistake, and also an embarrassing one. The correct phrase is "nip it in the bud," which refers to how gardeners prune the buds off plants to stop them from growing anymore. If you think about it, nipping something in the butt sounds like a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. Keep your nipping to yourself!
9. "It’s a mute point."
Switch out mute for moot and you’ve got yourself a nice, useful phrase. This one is really just down to the fact that moot and mute sound so similar. If you think about the actual meaning of the phrase, it’s pretty clear that "a mute point" makes no sense. A silent point? What does that even mean?
8. "Irregardless of the fact."
This one comes with a preface; contrary to popular belief, irregardless is actually a word. It’s in both the Oxford and Meriam-Webster dictionaries, because it’s so widely used that they decided to add it in. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not a completely pointless and redundant word. If you look at the actual makeup of irregardless, you can probably split it into two parts in your mind. The prefix, ir- and the root word -regardless. The prefix ir- is a common one, and can usually be substituted as 'not' to decipher the meaning of the whole word, for example irrevocable (not able to be revoked), irregular (not regular), irreversible (not able to be reversed). But the word regardless already has a negative prefix attached to the end —less. Adding ir- onto the start serves absolutely no purpose. This is exemplified by the definition of irregardless, which is only one word; regardless.
Do you say irregardless or regardless?
7. "Your welcome."
Luckily, you can’t tell the different between your and you’re in speech, so this one is only a problem when writing. While the difference between you’re and your (and for that matter, its and it’s, and their, they’re and there) was drilled into some people during school so thoroughly that they use to correct variation intuitively, it seems that a great many others are either unaware of the difference or are just too lazy to use correct grammar. Your is a possessive adjective, while you’re is the contracted version of you are. In the case of the example above, the correct phrase is "you’re (you are) welcome." The phrase "your welcome" only makes sense if you’re intending to use the word welcome as a noun, for example, "you don’t want to outstay your welcome." If some one expresses their gratitude and you want to say something back, "you’re welcome" is the way to go.
6. "I should of done that."
The correct was to say this is should have. This misconception arises from the contraction should’ve, which sounds like should of, or even shoulda. This extends to other words too; must have instead of must of, could have instead of could of, would have instead of would of. This is an easy fix, and it does wonders for the flow and accuracy of your speech.
5. "For all intensive purposes."
It was only a few years ago that I myself realised I’d been saying this wrong my whole life. For all intensive purposes? Think about it; it makes no sense. The phrase is actually meant to be for all intents and purposes, and somewhere along the line "intents and" melded together to form intensive. This is one you can generally get away with, but there are some sticklers who’ll grind their teeth loudly if they hear you say it wrong, so be warned!
4. "I bought my things with me."
It’s understandable that people get confused between bought and brought; after all, there’s only one letter difference. What’s helpful to me is to remember that bought is the past tense of buy, while brought is the past tense of bring. If you’re confused, switch the tense of your sentence around and see which words fits. It sounds pretty silly to say that "I buy my things with me," or that "I bring an apple at the store." If you employ this method enough, using bought and brought correctly will become second nature.
3. "I could care less."
You’re telling me that you could care less about my recent vacation? Well, I guess I’ll keep on with my thousand photo slide-show then, and wait until you couldn’t care less. This phrase is so commonly said that people usually don’t think twice about it. If you do stop to consider the meaning, however you’ll realise how ridiculous it sounds. If you could care less, it means that you must care at least a little bit, and the point that you’re trying to make is lost.
2. "Tongue and cheek."
This is another common one that people grow up hearing and never question. However, once you realise that the phrase is actually supposed to be "tongue in cheek" you won’t be able to help gritting your teeth every time you hear someone say it wrong. Tongue in cheek is a reference to the expression people sometimes make when they’re joking; they literally poke the inside of their cheek with their tongue.
1. "Can you be more pacific?"
Arggghhh. Of everything on this list, this is the only one that can make me lose my cool. Call me an annoying, perfectionist grammar Nazi, but it drives me crazy. No, I most definitely can’t be more pacific. How would that even work? Should I paint myself blue and only eat fish? The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean, stretching from the east coast of Australia to the west coast of Africa, and all the way up to the arctic circle in the North. The word that you’re looking for is specific. If you have trouble getting your head around the difference, just think to yourself; am I talking about an ocean? If not, pick specific. If so, then it’s pacific.
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And there you have it, 10 commonly misused phrases and words that are making you sound dumb. While you can get away with a lot of them because they’re so commonly said, if you’re using these in resumes, job interviews or papers for school they’re going to hold you back from letting your true intelligence shine through. Hopefully this article has motivated you to nip your language problems in the bud and decide to drop your "I couldn't care less" attitude in favour of working to change your commonly misspoken phrases, because there’s nothing tongue in cheek about sounding dumb when you speak; it’s a moot point.
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© 2018 K S Lane