Pardon My Grammar

by Ragtimelil

I’ve had several friends who constantly misuse words. They seem to have a talent for it. It makes talking to them interesting.

Malapropism is the use of one word for another that may sound similar. For instance I had a friend who wrote that I had been taken "for granite." I may be hard-headed, but last time I looked I was still flesh and bone

Reeking Havoc

We all know about the misuse of the words,” their, there and they’re.” These are some of the most common mistakes people make. I have a few more to add to the list.

I’ve read the expression, “to peek (or peak) your curiosity.” It’s not a glance or a mountaintop, it is “to provoke; arouse: The portrait piqued her curiosity.”

I recently encountered the expression, “reeks havoc.” I think what he meant to say was “wreaks havoc,” meaning to cause an uproar. “Reek” means smelly.

Another friend of mine told me more than once that she was a “ferocious” reader. How can you be a “savage, fierce or violent” reader? I have to think she meant she was a “voracious” reader. The definition of “voracious” is “a very eager approach to an activity.”

The Big Brown Dog


Another of my favorites is one I like to misuse intentionally.That is “baited breath.” I always wondered what a person would use to bait their breath with. “Bated breath,” is the the actual expression and is a shortened form of the word “abated,” meaning held off or postponed.

I do have a couple of pet peeves though. One is the misuse of “to” and “too.”  All too often I see “to” used to mean “also” or “in excess” when it should have been “too.” The word “to” means “movement toward.”

            “I would go to town too, but it’s too far.”

Another one of my gripes is usually used when speaking. People often misuse “I” and “me.” I’ve gotten compulsive about this one. I check it just about every time I hear it. In cases where you are speaking of two or more people, just drop the extra people and see if it still makes sense.

For example, “John and I went to the show.” It still makes sense to say, “I went to the show.”

Some sentences can be confusing but the trick still works. For example, if you say, “the dog followed Jane and me around.” You can leave out “Jane and” and it still makes sense.

Idioms, Sayings and Expressions

I learned a thing or two, myself, reading up on word usage for this article. I actually didn’t know that if you’re “pouring over” documents in the library you might get in trouble. What you should be doing is “poring over” them, or examining them closely.

But while I was researching word usage I came across this phrase in an article on common mistakes.“I think everyone falls pray to conflicting …” I thought the writer was joking. It was an article on grammar mistakes after all. After several rereads, I decided it wasn't meant as humor.  I don’t think the expression means to fall to your knees in prayer, but to fall “prey” or “victim.” 

I love learning where expressions come from. When I was a kid, I heard the expression “strike while the iron is hot.” I immediately pictured a woman standing at an ironing board with the hot iron in her hand…

(If you didn’t know already, it has to do with striking hot metal like a blacksmith would do, not a housewife.)


Updated: 07/25/2013, Ragtimelil
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Ragtimelil on 08/03/2012

Thank you. I kept staring at the "falling pray" thinking it was a joke. Couldn't believe it was in an article on correct grammar.

VictoriaLynn on 08/03/2012

I love this! You're a grammarian after my own heart! People using "myself" when they should use "me" drives me crazy. The use of "irregardless"--need I say more? There are so many! Loved the "falling prey" goof-up! Well done!

Mira on 08/02/2012

Never saw "reeking havoc." I like it :).

Ragtimelil on 07/31/2012

Hm I have a vague, shadowy memory of it being used correctly. When did we go so wrong.....

kajohu on 07/31/2012

I learned something yesterday when looking up the word "nonplussed". The standard usage is to mean, "confused and surprised", but the NORTH AMERICAN usage means the opposite, or "unperturbed". Apparently us grammatically-incorrect North Americans think that "plussed" means "perturbed", and when we add "non", it means "unperturbed".

Ragtimelil on 07/31/2012

Go ahead. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I love mangled sayings too, but I can't think of one. Haven't had my first cup of coffee....

adragast on 07/31/2012

Funny, I was just thinking about writing an article about its/it's, there/their/they're etc... "taken for granite is very cute".

Ragtimelil on 07/22/2012

Funny. I wish I had been writing down all that my friend said. She was a hoot. I don't see her now that I've moved.

sheilamarie on 07/22/2012

I love your article, Ragtimelil! If people really thought through what they were saying/writing, we'd all be having a belly laugh or two or three a day at our own expense. I find as the years go on the malapropism can increase in frequency as we grapple to find the right words. I love your examples. Now don't go taking yourself for granite: go out and reek havoc!

dustytoes on 07/22/2012

The misuse of "to" and "too" is one of my pet peeves too... ;)
I have a good friend who exchanges similar words and it's so funny. She doesn't realize it either. Sometimes I point it out to her and then we both laugh. (ex. "I got my magazine prescription" instead of subscription!)

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