Five Common Sayings We Should All Stop Misspelling

The prominence of online communication has revived a medium that was, in many ways, on its way out – the written word. With Facebook, Twitter, blogs and angry commenting in news forums, more and more people are expressing themselves through their writing. This resurgence has made several things clear:

1. Capitalization is either optional or MANDATORY, depending on who you talk to.

2. 98% of people who comment on news stories are deeply troubled individuals.

3. There are many expressions in the English language that, when misspelled, are nonsense.

I can’t do much about the first two. Caps lock is a decision that everyone must make for themselves, and I stopped reading the comments on news stories out of the fear that I might catch what those people have through the Internet tubes. But I can draw attention to a few expressions that, when spelled incorrectly, mean something completely different than intended.

5. Mute point

As in…

"I'm sorry, sir, I can't hear you. Your point is mute."

The actual expression: The phrase “moot point” comes from England, where “moots” were courts that would argue points of government. It originally meant, and some claim it still means, a point that is open to debate, but has come to more commonly mean an irrelevant argument. But no matter how irrelevant it may be, it can still be heard, so stop spelling it “mute.”

4. Peaked my interest

As in…

"My interest is on top of the world!"

The actual expression: “Pique” is a verb that means “to excite; to arouse an emotion or provoke to action.” The expression “piqued my interest” means that your interest has been heightened, not that your interest has been “mountained.”

3. Doggy dog world

As in…

"This doggy dog world is ADORABLE."

The actual expression: Slightly less adorable and a lot less nonsense is the expression “dog eat dog,” as in, this world is a cruel place where dogs turn on each other. The original Latin phrase is actually “dog does not eat dog,” which implied that even the most ruthless creatures would not turn on their own. In the 1930s, however, the phrase “dog eat dog” came about once people saw that during a Great Depression everyone would in fact eat each other if it came to it.

2. Waiting with baited breath

As in…

"My breath is so baited, no fish can resist it."

The actual expression: The phrase “bated breath” first appeared in the Shakespeare play Merchants of Venice. The word “bated” is actually a shortened form of “abated,” which means lessened or smaller, so the expression means breathing that is subdued due to expectation or excitement. It has nothing to do with luring anyone or anything into your mouth.

1. Flush out the details

As in…

"Uh oh. Someone get the details plunger."

The actual expression: The idiom “to flesh out” is based on the metaphor of a skeleton and building that skeleton out with additional info. Not on the metaphor of stuffing additional info into your sewage system. You flesh out the details to provide more information to a plan or idea. You flush out the details if they have somehow gotten in your eye.

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8 Responses to Five Common Sayings We Should All Stop Misspelling

  1. Ron Donald says:

    I feel like I got away with one today.

  2. ian saunders says:

    I agree with your points and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Only thing missing: chomping at the bit

  3. A good article, for all intensive purposes.

  4. Pingback: Biggest Loser Season 12: Maybe these people will turn out hot (Episodes 3-4) |

  5. mustachemiss says:

    Do people really say “doggy dog world?” Really?

    • outspokenslacktivist says:

      I know of at least two people, but Facebook is making me think that maybe my high school was just really lacking in the English department. I’d say my former classmates are split 50/50 on people who know what apostrophes are for and people who just use them as sentence decoration.

  6. Pingback: Five Habits of Highly Ineffective Slacktivists |

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