Thursday, May 19, 2011

grammar lesson: misused phrases

{I didn't mean to post this so quickly after Liam's 5-month post, but I messed up the timing and here it is, so I'll leave it up.}

Amy suggested I give a grammar lesson on homonyms, which led to a more general post on misused words and phrases. Enjoy!

just as soon v. just assume

Don't just assume you're God's gift to women. I'd just as soon go on a date with a pig. (Ouch!)

affect v. effect

To affect is a verb. The resulting effect is a noun. Did you know that being obnoxious can negatively affect your social life? The effects can be devastating.

accept v. except

I accept your apology... well, except for the part where you rolled your eyes.

immigrate v. emigrate

You emigrate from somewhere. You immigrate to somewhere. My ancestors emigrated from Europe. They immigrated to the United States. If we're talking about people who come to the US, we are talking about immigrants. If we talk about people who are leaving their country, we talk about emigrants.

than v. then

Than is a comparison. Then denotes chronological order. First I told you I was way cooler than you. Then I tripped and fell on my face.

its v. it's

It's not the same word when it loses its apostrophe... One is a contraction of "it is" (hence the apostrophe showing the contraction). The other is a possessive: my, your, his, her, their, our, its.

lie v. lay

These confuse me to no end. I never say it right. Lie is the action you do--physically moving from a standing position to a lying position. I'm tired, so I am going to lie down. Lay is something you do to another object. Lay your jacket on the bed so it doesn't get wrinkled. Chickens lay eggs (setting them down in the bedding). Even, ahem, "laying" someone makes sense grammatically... Although the child's prayer "now I lay me down to sleep" refers to you laying your body down. Something you do to your body as if it were a separate entity--hence the use of the word "lay" instead of "lie," which should probably say "lay myself down" if we really want to get technical.

sit v. set

No one confuses sit and set, but these make for a much easier way to remember lie and lay. Lie is like sit, and lay is like set. Now it makes sense, doesn't it?

Supposed to

It has a "d" on the end of it. It's not "suppose to."

Used to

Same story. "D" on the end of "used."

Nip it in the bud

A dog might nip you in the butt, but if you want to stop something before it goes to far, you have to nip it in the bud. On a related note, I find this phrase humorous, because if you nip off the buds of a plant (pinching), you actually encourage more growth. Anyone else find this amusing? Nope. I'm a nerd all by myself.

Hone v. home

As of last year I had this all wrong. All wrong. If you are trying to get closer to an idea or target, you don't hone in on it. You home in on it. Think of a homing pigeon. They can find the target/goal. To hone means to sharpen, so you can hone your skills. In fact, you can hone your homing skills.

All of a sudden

It's not "all the sudden" or "all of the sudden." I can still remember the moment my mom pointed this out to me. I was probably 10 or 11 (or 16--I have no sense of time in my memory).

Alzheimer's v. Oldtimers

Very funny mistake about a not-so-funny topic. Yes, many people with Alzheimer's Disease are elderly. But, please, don't call it Oldtimer's Disease.

And for Lindsay...

Hanged v. hung


People are hanged (as in a way to put to death). Everything else is hung. There is no non-gruesome way to give an example of this, so here you go: After the man was hanged, his body hung in the plaza for all to see. Eesh. Talk about a grim picture.

Perhaps another day we can talk about punctuation, because "Let's go eat, Tom!" means something very very different than "Let's go eat Tom!" I'll bet you can't wait for that post...

12 comments:

Lindsay said...

Love this! You know what phrase I think is funny?

"A whole nother"

I think it's funny that at some point someone decided to put a word inside of a word and somehow it caught on.

You should also add hanged v. hung.

Molly said...

I love "a whole nother." Seriously. I use it all the time. Ha!

Hanged v. hung. That's a good one. I'll add it.

Shannon said...

Love. I might just link to this. Because that's how much I love it.

Kim said...

Ok, so I always get so bugged at people saying, "I could care less about. . ." It's I couldn't care less. If you could care less, that means you care a little bit. Anyways, drives me bananas. Another random thing I was thinking about today was gun ho. Is it gung ho or gun ho? I saw a poster that said gun ho. . .is that correct? I know, I could just Google it. One last thing I was thinking about is the phrase "butt naked" or is it "buck naked" I was thinking buck. . .but then that sounds weird and sometimes I hear butt:) Ok, grammar/spelling guru--work your magic and enlighten me.

Tamra said...

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves style. Have you read the book? You'd like it.

Molly said...

Kim--Those are great ones! I posted a while back about "couldn't care less" so I figured I'd leave it out this time.

And it's definitely Gung Ho. I looked it up: anglicized pronunciation of Gung He, an abbreviation of the Chinese Cooperatives' motto back in the 40's. Amazing the things you learn...

And I think "buck naked" is correct (or original), but that "butt naked" is widely used and accepted now. So if you're writing an official paper or message or somewhere you want to look more intelligent, say "buck naked" (although why you'd use that in something official is beyond me), otherwise use "butt naked" to your heart's content. I think "butt naked" is funny.

Molly said...

Tamra-- I've never heard of the book. Only heard the joke. Funny.

madichan said...

"Lie" and "lay" STILL get me all messed up, and I was an English major. I pretty much never use them if I can help it.

My biggest pet peeve? LITERALLY.

If you're interested, Japanese grammar is a trip. Did you know it's actually encouraged to use passive voice in that language, so as to not assign blame to an individual and embarrass them? Instead of "someone stepped on my foot," you're supposed to say "My foot was stepped on." Except that ends in a preposition, so eeks.

Amy Carter said...

ahh, i'm so behind on reading your posts, i just saw this. and it was for me! thanks!! i seriously learned a thing or two. and your examples made me laugh.

Mer said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I've totally been contemplating a post like this, but you did such a great job that I think I'll do a blog post referring to this post! :)

I'm glad you mentioned let's (let us) v. lets (to allow). That one really gets to me.

mj said...

oh my word. i love this. i love everything about it!

Lindsay said...

And one more...farther v. further.

I saw this misused recently and thought it should be added to the list. You're great!