The English language is a funny thing: if the plural of mouse is mice, then why isn’t the plural of house “hice”? And how come sweetmeat is candy, but sweetbread is meat? And why do we ship by truck and send cargo by ship? It just doesn’t make sense!
And with the onslaught of Internet slang and pop culture, it’s not that hard to see why some of us sometimes use certain words incorrectly. In fact, we might not even realize we’re doing it at all until someone points it out to us. So, to help you avoid an awkward moment in an otherwise intelligent interaction, and to save you from potential embarrassment, we’ve put together this list of 10 words you might be using incorrectly.
What it means: What it means: Using words to convey a meaning that is opposite of its literal meaning.
What it doesn’t mean: Something cosmically amusing like “rain on your wedding day”. Canadian songstress Alanis Morissette’s hit single “Ironic” created quite a bit of a stir when it was released back in 1996 and, 20 years later, the use of the word “ironic” in the song is still a hotly debated subject.
What it means: The last one.
What it doesn’t mean: The best, as in “the ultimate Bond villain of all-time”. Unless Dr. No was the last ever villain to appear in the James Bond movie series, he was the best (according to taste).
What it means: To cause terror.
What it doesn’t mean: Fantastic, as in “he’s such a terrific student”. This may be a bad example because some students do, in fact, cause terror to teachers and the global population at large.
What it means: Nothing.
What it doesn’t mean: Regardless, without regard. “Irregardless” is actually a made-up word that people mistakenly use as an alternative form of the word “regardless”.
What it means: In other words.
What it doesn’t mean: What it doesn’t mean: For example. An abbreviation of the Latin id est, it literally translates into English as “that is”. The correct abbreviation of “for example” is, in fact, “e.g.” which is an abbreviation of exempli gratia.
What it means: A mockery, a parody.
What it doesn’t mean: An unfortunate event, a tragedy. After all, the song goes “It’s a tragedy”, not “It’s a travesty”.
What it means: Confused, bewildered.
What it doesn’t mean: Amused. When two people exchange bemused looks, they actually exchange confused looks.
What it means: One of a kind.
What it doesn’t mean: Extraordinary, as in “the candidate displayed a unique skill set”. By using the word “unique” in that sentence, it is implied that the candidate is the only person with a very specific set of skills.
What it means: To be forced or to feel obligated to do something.
What it doesn’t mean: To do something by choice. When someone is compelled to stay in bed due to illness, it means that they were forced to stay in bed. Likewise, when one feels compelled to tell the truth, it means that they feel obligated to it.
What it means: In a literal manner, actually.
What it doesn’t mean: Figuratively. As illustrated in The Oatmeal’s comic, saying that you literally peed yourself laughing means that you have, in fact, peed yourself laughing.
Can you think of any other words that are regularly used incorrectly? Perhaps you’ve been using some of these words incorrectly yourself? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!