Words Misused – Part 3: The Real Meaning of These Words

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This is the final post in my Words Misused series. Here’s a list of words many people use with an incorrect meaning in mind. I use The Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Often Misused Words

Appraise: to set a value on. Not to inform.

Bemuse: bewilder or confuse. Not to amuse.

Dichotomy: a division or the process of dividing into two mutually exclusive or contradictory groups. Not disagreement, difference or discrepancy.

Enervate: to lessen the strength or vigor of; weaken in mind or body. Not energize.

Enormity: an outrageous, vicious, or immoral act. Not enormousness.

Fortuitous: happening by chance. Not fortunate.

Infamous: having a reputation of the worst kind; disgraceful. Not being famous.

Luxuriant: yielding or growing abundantly. Not luxurious.

Mitigate: to make less harsh, hostile, severe, or painful. Not to have weight or effect. 

Noisome: harmful, unwholesome; offensive to the senses. Not noisy.

Nonplussed: puzzled or perplexed. Not calm.

Penultimate: next to the last. Not the ultimate.

Opportunism: taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances especially with little regard for principles or ultimate consequences. Not creating opportunities.

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Poisonous: a substance that through its chemical action can injure or kill. Not venomous.

Practicable: capable of being put into practice, done, or accomplished. Not practical.

Proscribe: outlaw; to condemn or forbid as harmful. Not recommend.

Protagonist: the principal character in a drama or story; a leader or supporter of a cause. Not one who argues in favor of something.

Refute: to prove to be false by argument or evidence. Not by conjecture.

Simplistic: excessively simple, tending to overlook complexities. Not being simple.

Unexceptionable: not open to exception or objection, beyond reproach. Not ordinary.

Untenable: not being held, maintained, or defended. Not unbearable.

Verbal: of, relating to, or consisting of words; especially having to do with words rather than with the ideas to be conveyed. Not oral.

What’s a word you’ve heard or seen used with an incorrect meaning?

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Words Misused – Part 2: Incorrect Construction of Common Phrases

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Although many common phrases have become clichés, if we use them in our writing, we should use the right word for the meaning of the phrase. Here’s a list of phrases writers often misuse.

Often Misused Phrases

Another think coming not another thing coming. Comes from, “If you have an incorrect thought, you’d better think again.”

Bated breath not baited breath. One doesn’t bait their breath with worms.

By accident not on accident. The first means accidently. On accident is common in speaking, but considered incorrect in writing.

Case in point not case and point. You’re about to give an example to reinforce your point.

Champing at the bit not chomping at the bit. Champ means to chew noisily.

Could have/should have not could of/ should of. The contractions could’ve/should’ve throw us off.

Couldn’t care less not could care less, unless you mean you could care even less than you do.

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Did a complete 180 not did a complete 360. For turning completely away from something, you wouldn’t turn in a circle to where you started.

Enamored of not enamored by, because then the person after the by thinks a lot of you.

Exact revenge not extract revenge. Exact compels to furnish or call for revenge. Extract pulls out revenge.

Fall by the wayside not fall by the waste side. The meaning isn’t to fall in a trash pile.

For all intents and purposes not for all intensive purposes, unless you intend to say the purposes are intense.

Hear, hear not here, here. The phrase was originally a cheer for “hear him, hear him.”

Hold your peace not hold your piece. (See say your piece)

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Home in not hone in. Home in like homing pigeons direct themselves to their home targets.

In regard to not in regards to. The plural is found in as regards, which also means with respect to.

Loath to not loathe to. Loathe means to dislike greatly. Loath means to be unwilling or reluctant.

On tenterhooks not on tender hooks. Hooks aren’t tender.

One and the same not one in the same. The first says two things are the same; the second says a thing is inside itself.

Repository of information not suppository of information. Suppository is something you insert. [Smile.]

Say your piece not say your peace. (See hold your peace.)

Self-deprecating not self-depreciating. Undervaluing oneself not ones value is diminishing.

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Sleight of hand not slight of hand. Sleight means trick or dexterity. Slight means slender.

Sneak peek not sneak peak. It means an opportunity to see something before it’s officially available.

Statute of limitations not statue of limitationsStatute is a law enacted by a legislative body; statue is a body made of a solid substance.

Supposed to not suppose to. The d gets dropped often when speaking the phrase and confuses the written phrase.

Toe the line not tow the line. Athletes are required to place their toes to the starting line. When someone toes the line, they’re doing what’s expected—an accepted standard.

Used to not use to. (See supposed to.)

Waiting for not waiting on. Wait for a friend versus wait on a customer.

Whet your appetite not wet your appetite. Whet means stimulate.

Wreak havoc not wreck havoc. Wreck would destroy the havoc.

What are other phrase you’ve seen written incorrectly?

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Words Misused – Part 1: Confusion Between Words

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Has the use of the wrong word ever embarrassed you? I used clench when I meant clinch. Here’s a list of words that writers often confuse.

Words Often Confused

I won’t give full definitions but the differentiating sense between the words. Look up the words for precise and additional meanings.

1. Accept is to receive; except excludes.

2. Adverse describes something as bad; averse is being against something.

3. Affect is usually to influence; and effect is usually a result. (Look these up.)

4. Allusion is an indirect reference; illusion is a misconception.

5. Bimonthly means every two months; semimonthly means something happens twice a month.

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6. Capital is the seat of government, accumulation of wealth, or a capital letter; capitol is the government building.

7. Cite is to reference something; Site is a place; Sight is about seeing.

8. Clinch is to seal the deal; clench is making fingers into a fist.

9. Compelled is forced; motivated is help to want to do something.

10. Complement completes or brings to perfection; compliment praises.

11. Comprise tells what something includes; compose tells things that make up a whole.

12. Concurrent refers to simultaneous; consecutive refers to successive or following.

13. Connote implies; denote indicates.

14. Convince makes someone believe something is true; persuade wins over someone to do something.

15. Council is an assembly; counsel is advice or guidance.

16. Credible means believable; credulous means inclined to believe.

17. Cue is a pool stick or help with an actor’s lines; queue is a lineup of things.

18. Discreet is showing good judgment; discrete means separate or distinct.

19. Disinterested is unbiased; uninterested is not interested.

20. Elicit draws out; illicit is unlawful.

21. Emigrants leave one’s country to settle in another; immigrantscome to settle in a new country.

22. Farther refers to physical distance; further refers to the degree or extent of an action or situation.

23. Fewer is for number of things; Less is for volume.

24. Figuratively is metaphorically or symbolically; literally is actually.

25. Flaunt is for showing off; flout is for showing contempt.

26. Foreword is an introductory note; forward is to send on a “note.”

27. Founder is to sink; flounder is to act clumsily.

28. Gibe is to taunt; jibe is being in accord (alternate to gibe); jive concerns music.

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29. Hanged puts a rope around a neck in the past; hung is suspending something in the past.

30. Imply is to suggest; infer is to draw a conclusion.

31. Ironic is the reverse of what’s expected or meant; coincidentalis something happening without reason.

32. Lightening illuminates; lightning is an electrical bolt.

33. Passed passes in the past; past refers to time gone by or going beyond.

34. Precede means come before; proceed means to go forward.

35. Principal is the head of a school or adjective for main; principleis a rule or doctrine.

36. Reign is to rule; Rein is a strap on a horse.

37. Stationary is fixed or unmoving; stationery is writing materials.

38. Tortuous is twisty; torturous is anguish of body or mind.

39. Venal is corruptible; venial says a sin is pardonable.

Which word above, if any, have you confused with another word?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?