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Chances Are You Have Used One of These Incorrectly


 Chances Are You Have Used One of These Incorrectly

Do-not-think-it-means-gmansworld

Do-not-think-it-means-gmansworld

As English evolves, word meanings shift and turn, sometimes reversing themselves altogether.  There are so many words in the English language that it’s not surprising that the definitions for some of them have gotten mixed up over the years. It’s possible that you’ve gone your entire life without realizing your mistakes. I’m sure people have noticed. One day, you were probably walking down the street, casually chatting with an old friend, and one of these words slipped out of your mouth.  In some cases, we are wise to likewise be flexible; in others, we relax our vocabulary at the expense of useful distinctions:

1. Disinterested

What you may think it means:  Commonly employed to mean “not interested,”

What it actually meansdisinterested has a precise, useful meaning of “neutral, unbiased.”

2. Travesty

What you may think it means: a tragedy, an unfortunate event

What it actually means: a mockery; a parody

This one, I’ll admit, is my own personal error. For the longest time, I equated travesty with tragedy, mostly because in passing, they sound like the same word. It’s stupid, I know, but if you knew how many times I confused fetal position with beetle position, you wouldn’t be laughing. It’s a serious problem.

3. Ironic

What you may think it means: a funny coincidence

What it actually means: contrary to what you might expect

The impact of ironic has been diluted because many people use it to mean “coincidental,” when its traditional definition is “counter to expectations or what is appropriate.”It’s not ironic that you bumped into a talking turtle in a sweater vest right after you told your friend how cool it would be to bump into a talking turtle in a sweater vest. It’s a coincidence, and believe it or not, those two words are

not related. Also, you should probably lay off the drugs because I’m pretty sure animals shouldn’t be talking.

4. Peruse

What you may think it means: to skim or glance over something

What it actually means: to review something carefully/in-depth

How this definition got completely turned on its head, I’ll never know, but I’ll be sure never to say “I’m going to go peruse my math textbook” ever again, just in case someone overhears and tries to hold me to it under the real meaning.

5. Bemused

What you may think it means: amused

What it actually means: confused

Again, with the whole “words sounding alike” issue. I’m starting to think I just need hearing aids. This is getting out of hand.

6. Compelled

What you may think it means: to willingly do something, to feel like you need to do so

mething

What it actually means: to be forced to do something (willingly or unwillingly)

The word you’re looking for is “impelled.” I agree, it doesn’t get enough attention.

7. Nauseous

What you may think it means: to feel sick

What it actually means: to cause nausea

When you eat too much ice cream and declare to your mom or the nearest adult, “I feel nauseous,” what you’re actually saying is that you are causing people around you to feel sick. Thanks, jerk. (For the record, “I’m nauseated” is the way to go.)

8. Redundant

What you may think it means: repetitive

What it actually means: superfluous, able to be cut out

“Including this sentence is redundant because you already mentioned your love of Santa Claus in the previous paragraph.” This has always been my exposure to the word redundant, so it only makes sense that I would think repetitive was correct. I can’t be the only one? Right? RIGHT?

9. Enormity

What you may think it means: enormousness

What it actually means: extreme evil

I don’t know where the “extreme evil” thing came from (probably the Devil) but enormity makes more sense as enormousness in my mind.

10. Terrific

What you may think it means: awesome, fantastic

What it actually means: causing terror

Okay, so “causing terror” is more of an outdated definition but I still thought it was interesting. Maybe keep this fun fact in the back of your mind the next time you call your favorite camper, “Terrific Tommy,” because technically, a few decades ago, that might have been an insult. Unless instead of a camper, he’s a serial killer. In that case, go for it.

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One response

  1. Pingback: 15 Words You Use Incorrectly - Writer's Cage

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