Be Impeccable: Commonly Misused Phrases That Will Make You Sound Ignorant

Ursus Minor

Jedi Master
A great thread for everybody using, teaching, let alone translating English. :-)

Great list and glad to say I am not guilty of using any of those incorrectly.
Laura, I notice you spell our southern word as "ya'll". I have always spelled it "y'all" as in "you all". I grew up in Alabama and we said y'all a lot, but never to a single person as they do on TV. Is ya'll correct or is that a different contraction than for "you all"?
Heaven knows it took me years to find out what y'all means while trying to figure out Blues and Soul lyrics.
That was decades before the internet and the best even concise dictionaries could come up with were definitions of "yowl" and "yawl"... :lol:

I'm still struggling with the inflationary use of "off of" in American English, though.

But down at the beach I wouldn't hesitate to say things like: "Gotta get da ice-cream offa my pants, y'all!" :cool:
 

koin

Padawan Learner
I've noticed that use of "defiantly" when I know that the person meant "definitely" and I think it is most often just bad spelling or typo. Surely they are pronouncing "definitely" in their heads? Defiant is pronounced quite differently.
I agree, it's phonetically too different to be mispronounced but is more often a typo or erroneous correction by spell check.
 

JGeropoulas

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Just saw another one that pops up regularly: using the incorrect word verses (sections of a song, poem) instead of the correct word versus (opposed, against; often abbreviated "vs." in ordinary writing, and "v." in the titles of lawsuits, e.g. Joe Jones v. Smith Company)
 

Bastian

Jedi Master
Hello, I have some questions for native English speakers, about the common use of the preposition re instead of about in this forum, which I find a bit disturbing (I've never seen it during my studies).

For instance, in this message (as many others) :
And thanks to the thread re the Afterlife, I have no doubt he's 'gone fishin'!
I have tried to keep pace w/ the many discoveries re human biology/processes.
Let's see what some dictionnaries tell about it :

Oxford English dictionnary said:
re (preposition)
  • 1 In the matter of (used typically as the first word in the heading of an official document or to introduce a reference in a formal letter)
    ‘re: invoice 87’
Synonym : about, concerning, regarding, with regard to, relating to, apropos, apropos of, on the subject of, respecting, in respect of, with respect to, with reference to, as regards, in the matter of, in connection with, referring to, touching on
  • 1.1 About ; concerning.
    ‘I saw the deputy head re the incident’
Synonym : about, concerning, regarding, with regard to, relating to, apropos, apropos of, on the subject of, respecting, in respect of, with respect to, with reference to, as regards, in the matter of, in connection with, referring to, touching on

Usage
The traditional view is that re should be used in headings and references, as in Re: Ainsworth versus Chambers, but not as a normal word meaning ‘about’, as in "I saw the deputy head re the incident". However, the evidence suggests that re is now widely used in the second context in official and semi-official contexts, and is now generally accepted. It is hard to see any compelling logical argument against using it as an ordinary English word in this way

Origin
Latin, ablative of res ‘thing’.
(Source)

Collins dictionnary said:
re in British
(preposition)
with reference to

USAGE Re, in contexts such as re your letter, your remarks have been noted or he spoke to me re your complaint, is common in business or official correspondence. In general English with reference to is preferable in the former case and about or concerning in the latter. Even in business correspondence, the use of re is often restricted to the letter heading.

Word origin of 're'
C18: from Latin rē, ablative case of rēs thing
(Source)

Cambridge dictionnary said:
re
preposition

formal (especially in business letters) about; on the subject of:
Re your communication of 15 February ...
(Source - so they don't even mention the new usage !)

So am I right, thinking that it was first formally used to begin letter objects, then used (by mistake) in the middle of sentences, and now the mistake is so common that this second usage is no more a mistake ? (D'oh ! >_< )

Or is there a subtle difference, are there some contexts where re is better suited than about (according to the new usage) ?
 

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
So am I right, thinking that it was first formally used to begin letter objects, then used (by mistake) in the middle of sentences, and now the mistake is so common that this second usage is no more a mistake ? (D'oh ! >_< )

Or is there a subtle difference, are there some contexts where re is better suited than about (according to the new usage) ?
Well, you quoted one source that basically gave the thing in a nutshell:

"The traditional view is that re should be used in headings and references, as in Re: Ainsworth versus Chambers, but not as a normal word meaning ‘about’, as in "I saw the deputy head re the incident". However, the evidence suggests that re is now widely used in the second context in official and semi-official contexts, and is now generally accepted. It is hard to see any compelling logical argument against using it as an ordinary English word in this way "

I think the main thing about it is that it is short and encapsulates an intention and we live in a world of shorter and ever shorter words! Most people use it as an abbreviation for "regarding" or "about".

However, note that this usage is pretty much confined to written exchanges and only hard-core "text speak" types would use it when talking face-to-face.

As to subtle differences: well, I think it has to do with flow and personal preference.
 
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