The Virus of Bad English

If you once were an English major like me, you are probably as picky as I am about indifferent, sloppy and just plain bad English; spelling especially.

I blame it on technology for one thing; it’s much easier to text “ware u at?” then to actually spell it out. What surprises me though is the news *chyron that you always see running at the bottom of the TV screen. There are misspellings that you would think that someone would have picked up on, but that’s probably some robot that produces it anyway. You’d think someone would teach it to spell correctly.

I often see blatant errors during programs as well. The other morning, there was a group talking about the government, and, sure enough there it was, right on TV, spelled “goverment.” Folks, it’s “government.”

The same thing happens in speech as well. We as a nation are getting pretty lazy about our speech. Again, I blame texting. Don’t get me wrong, I actually started texting myself and have to admit it’s kind of fun. However, I am still saddened (and provoked) that it doesn’t seem to matter any more that there is correct spelling and usage, never mind correct speech.

Then there are the sayings many of us grew up with that have somehow gotten screwed up over time. Here are some real beauts I found on ProofreadingServicesUS:

“You’ve got another thing coming.” This is a phrase that people often say in anger, as in “Oh, yeah? Well, then, you’ve got another thing coming!” It sounds vaguely threatening, but if you really think about the phrase, it doesn’t make much sense. What people should actually be saying is, “you’ve got another think coming,” but that makes even less sense unless you use the saying in its entirety: “If that’s what you think, then you’ve got another think coming.”

“Statue of limitations.” This one is so well known that an episode of Seinfeld even dealt with it. The correct saying is statute of limitations, a legal term defining how long someone has until they can no longer be tried for a particular crime or violation. For example, the statute of limitations on battery in Missouri may be five years. If the state doesn’t bring charges within that time frame, they lose the legal ability to do so.

“With all intensive purposes.” While, yes, it is technically possible to have purposes that are intensive (doctors and police detectives probably have these all the time), the correct phrase is “with all intents and purposes.”

“Card shark.” While someone who is amazingly good at cards may seem like a vicious shark if you are playing against them and losing all of your hard-earned money, card shark is not the correct term. For the right phrase, you need to think about synonyms for “good” and “smart.” People who show those qualities when playing cards prove themselves to be sharp – therefore, they are card sharps.

“Mute point.” What is a mute point anyway? A point that is silent? The phrase people are looking for is moot point. This is a tricky one because the correct word – “moot” – doesn’t really have any meaning beyond the one given to it in this phrase, essentially “an argument that is irrelevant.”

“I could care less.” If you could care less, then you clearly still care a fair amount. Perhaps your comment would have hurt me more if you’d phrased it correctly and said, “I couldn’t care less.” Ouch.

“Take it for granite.” Why are you taking it for granite? Does it look like granite? Does it feel like granite? Maybe you should test it out instead of just taking it for granite… or maybe what you meant was that you were taking it for granted. One involves not showing enough appreciation for something, while the other is a rock. Slight difference.

“Extract revenge.” This is an interesting mistake because it immediately begs the question “from where?” What exactly holds revenge? Of course, the person really wants to “exact revenge,” by inflicting or imposing it on those who wronged him or her.

“Nip it in the butt.” A dog might get away with this, but unfortunately a person doing this would probably be thought crazy, which is why we “nip it in the bud” instead. Huh? Think “bud” as in flowers and plants. To nip something in the bud means to stop a small problem before it can become a larger one.

“Coming down the pipe.” The original saying, “coming down the pike,” referred to something approaching from the turnpike. However, most people today don’t have a whole lot of familiarity with that shortening of the word, and “pipe” conjures images of new data streaming through digital channels. “Coming down the pipe” isn’t correct, but this is one you might just get away with.

“One in the same.” Where is one? In the same. Wait, what? Exactly – it doesn’t make any sense. And why? Because what you mean to say is “one and the same,” which is a way to say that something is exactly like something else.

“Old-timer’s disease.” Technically this one makes a lot of sense, because it’s almost always older people who suffer from this malady, but when people say this, it is usually because they misunderstood when someone said Alzheimer’s disease.

*From Wikipedia: “Chyron may refer to: Lower third, television graphics that occupy the lower area of the screen or any predominantly text-based video graphic as used mainly by television news broadcasts. ChyronCorporation, a company that develops and manufactures on-screen graphics for the broadcast industry.”

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