When you write professionally, you should never get off Scotch free if you incorrectly use an idiom or phrase. By in large, most of my colleagues and I tow the line in terms of our writing, but on occasion we do make a grammatical foe paw.
I admit that I have a deep-seeded interest in the proper use of grammar, and often cringe when someone claims they could care less about the proper way to say things. However, if you’d prefer your grammar to pass mustard, please consider my tongue and cheek advice for sounding smarter by avoiding the incorrect usage of the following 10 idioms and phrases.
- Moot point – not mute point. A point that is moot is considered hypothetical or of no importance – or, a point that one should probably remain mute about.
- For all intents and purposes – not for all intensive. For all intents and purposes means for virtually or all practical purposes. This phrase is actually an eggcorn (another fun grammar topic for another blog, perhaps.)
- Piqued my interest – not peaked my interest. To “pique” means to arouse or excite – though arguably a something could peak your interest if your interest was at its pinnacle.
- Shoo-in – not shoe-in. A shoo-in is a sure winner. Shoo means to urge something in a certain direction (perhaps by kicking the something with your shoe?)
- Hunger pangs – not hunger pains. We’ve probably all felt painfully hungry at times due to hunger pangs – which are sharp pains in our stomach.
- Wreak havoc – not wreck. To wreak havoc is to cause great damage, which is what you might do if you were to get into a car wreck.
- Biding my time – not biting my time. To bide one’s time means to wait patiently for the right moment. Definitely makes more sense than chewing on your watch.
- Case in point – not case and A case in point is an example that supports one’s argument. I avoid saying idioms incorrectly so I can sound smarter; a case in point is that I never say, “case and point.”
- Nip in the bud – not in the butt. In the gardening world, if you nip a flower in the bud, it won’t blossom. By nipping a problem in the bud, you are preventing it from flowering. On the other hand, you may a create problem if you nip someone’s butt.
- One and the same – not one in the same. This phrase should be used to emphasize that two subjects are actually the same or alike. Unless you are describing nesting dolls, the correct phrase is one and the same.
If this blog posted has wet your appetite for more grammar tips, here are the correct versions of a few bonus phrases, courtesy of Merriam-Webster: