I just saw the following from Inc. Magazine, “7 Common Phrases That Could Make You Look Really Ignorant,” and my snarky inner grammar fussbudget jumped for joy. It makes me feel so much better that I am not the only one grinding their teeth over some if the phrases I hear. I copied the following while cackling my head off:
“The manner in which we speak and write are part of how we are evaluated in terms of professionalism. Here are a few phrases you don’t want to use as such, whether online or off:
Want to start off your day with a bang and grammatically correctly at the same time? Get an espresso. The word “expresso” doesn’t exist.
Correct usage: “I’ll take a triple espresso.” (I was guilty of this one for a long time. Honestly, I thought it was “expresso!”)
- Scotch free/Scott free
Getting off scot-free means getting away with something without punishment or consequences. Many believe it comes from the 16th century, when a tax or fee was known as a “scot.” Thus this example from John Wolcot’s Odes of Condolence: “Scot-free the Poets drank and ate; They paid no taxes to the State!”
Correct usage: “Looks like that street artist got away scot-free again.”
- Statue of limitations
A statue is a trophy or other physical item; a statute is a legal term. A statute of limitations refers to the time limit on prosecuting a certain crime. For example, the statute of limitations in California for professional malpractice is 1 year from discovery. You can only prosecute if it’s within a one-year window from when you found out about the malpractice.
Correct usage: “There is no statute of limitations for murder.”
- Nip it in the butt
The correct phrase here is “nip it in the bud,” and it comes from gardening. When you nip something in the bud, it means you stop it before it gets the chance to flower. Nipping something in the butt is meaningless unless you’re a sheepdog.
Correct usage: “He texted you again? You’d better nip that in the bud.”
- Flush out
I’ve seen this in emails before and winced. If you want to say you’re expanding on an idea, you’re fleshing it out, not flushing it out. It comes from drawing, when you would outline the skeleton of a person first, then add flesh.
Correct usage: “Let’s flesh out this idea at the meeting.”
- On accident
Prepositions are the bane of existence for more than just middle schoolers – even adults misuse them. The correct phrase here is always “by accident.” You can do something on purpose, but you can’t do it on accident.
Correct usage: “I think Kenda sent us that message by accident.”
- I could care less
This is my personal pet peeve. When you say you could care less, it means you do care – at least a bit. If you want to express that you really don’t care at all, you must say “I couldn’t care less.”
Correct usage: “I couldn’t care less whether we paint the conference room pink.”
Good luck following all the rules of grammar. May you always get things right, or if you get them wrong, may you get away scot-free.”
Here are some of my own personal pet peeves I have collected and clucked about over the years:
- There is no such word as REE-LA-TOR. It is realtor, pronounced “REEL-TOR.” Also, there is no such word as LIBERRY. It is library, pronounced “LIBE-RARY.”
- It is correct to say “It’s not that big a deal.” It is INCORRECT to say, “It’s not that big of a deal.” Period.
- This one has me flummoxed. The saying goes: “You have to take the BAD with the GOOD.” Meaning that, for the good thing you like, there is something bad that you don’t like that comes with it. Example: I love my four cats. I don’t love it that I have to clean four litter boxes. But I do so because I love the cats (the GOOD) and so will take the BAD (cleaning the litter boxes). See how that makes sense? So why do I keep on hearing “You have to take the GOOD with the Bad”? Makes NO sense.
- Opening up a Christmas card–and having sparkly confetti pour out of the envelope. If this is supposed to make me happy, it doesn’t. It just means that now I have to vacuum–and I hate vacuuming. Thanks for nothing.
- People who chew gum like a cow chewing hay–honestly, it gives me the shudders. If they could only do it with their mouths closed, discretely, I could live with it. But no–we are treated to the sight and sound of everyone’s dental work as they work that gum loudly and relentlessly.
- When did people start ending conversations with “..so..” as if it were a logical end of the sentence? Example: “I bought this cute hat, took it home and put in on and it just didn’t look right, so….” SO WHAT?!? End the sentence already! “So” is no way to end a sentence–it’s just irritating.
- Why oh why do cats like to vomit at night? Nothing wakes you up faster than that “hucka-hucka-hucka” sound they make.
- People who say “like” all the time – either something IS or IS NOT.
There—now I feel so much better!