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