ave you ever run into a phase you’ve just realized you’ve been saying incorrectly for your entire life? Maybe you’ve been walking around saying “play it by year” instead of “play it by ear” forever since actually, playing it by year seems much more relaxing and less stressful than trying to play it by ear, without any music or guidelines on how to do it, but that’s just one person’s opinion. English is weird and we have a lot of phrases that don’t really make sense if you look at the words themselves, but we all know what they mean, so it’s no wonder that sometimes people bucher them even though they know exactly what they are trying to say. But if you’re worried about embarrassing yourself in conversation, check out these common phrases that many people say wrong.
“I could care less” doesn’t mean the same thing as “I couldn’t care less.”
To express how little someone cares about something, they often say “I could care less”, but when you really think about it, that means they do care! If they could care less than there is some amount of caring going on and room for that caring to decrease. The phrase actually is “I couldn’t care less” because if you can’t care any less, you truly do not care about the thing.
Is it “hone in” or “home in?"
This is a difficult one, because both phrases make sense. “Hone” means to sharpen, so if you “hone in” on something it would mean to sharpen your skills on one thing. Makes sense, right? Even though a lot of people say “hone in”, the phrase is actually “home in” as in a homing missile or homing pigeon. As in, picking one spot and going directly to it. So if you “home in” on a project, you are focusing directly on one thing.
Regardless of what you think, "irregardless" is not a word.
People say “irregardless” all the time, but why? They use it in the exact same way one would use the word “regardless,” so what’s the need for the prefix? Well, there isn’t one! Actually, the prefix “ir” means “not” so when someone says the word irregardless they are using a double negative. “Regardless” means “without regard” so “irregardless” would mean “not without regard,” or the opposite of regardless.
But the word irregardless is a good example of a colloquialism, or a word people use so often, it becomes part of common dialect.
Another good example is the word “literally,” which means “exactly” but people often now use to mean the exact opposite of that! Even though we know your friend didn’t “literally” eat a sandwich as big as a boat, we get what she means when she says that. It can be a little annoying for grammar nerds, but hey, good luck trying to get “figuratively” to catch on.
Sadly, there is no statue of limitations somewhere.
As much as we might like to imagine there is a big statue somewhere that displays multiple limitations (I like to imagine it’s of me at an animal shelter holding five kittens and my husband telling me we cannot have five kittens), the phrase is actually “statute of limitations,” the word “statue” referring to a law and not a large bronze structure pigeons like to poop on.