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Phraseology

May 9, 2007

Have you seen The Princess Bride? I love that movie on so many levels but one particular line really does it for me. There is a particular scene in which Vizzini keeps repeating the word “inconceivable” and Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I LOVE that little exchange. It fits so well when someone completely butchers some piece of the English language.

I worked with a fantastic young English butcher in Tennessee (Robyn, you know this one). She had so many different butchered phrases that I could not possibly have kept track of them all. My favorite was her description of a friend that had recently had a cyst removed. The friend, she said, went on to have the cyst autopsied. Wow! I didn’t know they had to determine cause of death for things like cysts. I wonder if there’s a full report out there somewhere…

Her close friend and fellow English-language butcher told me one day that she felt “like such a shoe.” I wonder what that feels like. Kind of tough and leathery? More of an idiot than just the heel might be?

A co-worker of mine recently told her boss that she “hated waiting until the ninth hour.” Is that a little further from the deadline than the eleventh hour? Two hours further? Does that mean that one has more time? Or is it just an issue with the fact that it’s the ninth? Perhaps it’s a nine-phobia or something.

Here’s a list of some others that drive me to distraction:

Irregardless. What exactly does that mean? Irrespective or regardless I get… not irregardless.

Supposably/supposively. It’s supposedly folks, plain and simple.

The substitution of “of” for “have”. “I should of” instead of “I should have”?

She peaked my curiousity. “Peak” is a pointed extremity or a tapering, projecting point. I don’t think that works here. How about “She piqued my curiousity” instead?

“Cut the mustard” instead of “cut the muster”.

“Tough road to hoe.” This little gem was started because one might hoe a ROW of crops, not an entire road. God help me if I have to hoe an entire road. That would be tough!

“Neck in neck.” This really is about horse racing and the fact that two horses might be “neck AND neck” at the finish line, not that one horse’s neck might be inside the neck of another.

“Tow the line.” This one has nothing to do with anyone towing a line anywhere. Instead it’s all about standing behind the line until the race starts–keeping toes, in particular, behind said line. Although it sounds the same as “tow”, it’s really “Toe the line.”

By far my biggest pet peeve is “It’s a mute point.” The definition of mute is silent, incapable of speech, or dumb. Does that mean that the point is silent? The point has no sound of any kind? The point is dumb? (Could be, but not in that way.) I think not. It’s actually a MOOT point, meaning that the point is debatable, doubtful, or of little to no practical value.

It’s not really about the speech itself for me. It’s about sounding like an intelligent, educated person. Some phraseology has morphed over time and really has  become something different from the original. Most of those examples listed above, though, are a result of lack of focus on our language by teachers, individuals and society. I would like to see us focus again. I would like to hear people speak our mother language with pride once again. I would like to walk the halls at my place of employment without cringing.

Just today I heard someone say “It’s coming down the pipe.”

I do not think that means what you think it means.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2007 8:23 pm

    That is so stinkin’ hilarous! My personal favorite is when people mixup “her/him” and “she/he”. Example: Him and John went to the store. (twinge my neck please!). Listen closely folks: If you separate the new subjects, the sentence can still stand on its own. “Him went to the store?” NO NO NO. HE WENT TO THE STORE. JOHN WENT TO THE STORE. HE AND JOHN WENT TO THE FREEKIN’ STORE!!!!!! (sigh, ok, I’m done).

  2. Lynda permalink
    May 10, 2007 9:22 am

    Hahaha! My biggest pet peeves were with my first husband’s pronunciation of words.

    Chimbley = Chimney

    Ambliance = Ambulance

    Envelop = Envelope

    Thender = Fender

    Breftas = Breakfast

    I’m sure there were more, but they escape me at the moment. I nearly lost my mind trying to NOT correct him all the time.

  3. Traci permalink
    May 11, 2007 6:35 am

    I get so hung up when others use these that I get stuck in my mind wanting to correct them and then miss whatever is said after the blunder…I guess these drive me to disctraction too!

  4. May 18, 2007 7:52 am

    Okay, I am crackin’ up – a week late (sorry). How about Nuclear and Nuculer?

    We’ve spent hours trying to do something about ending every sentence with “… , Sooooooo….” like The Mother has trained the girls. I always respond with “Sooooo, what?” and they look at me funny. Or how about inserting “to where” inside a sentence? “I fixed it to where it would work better.” To where, where????

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