I found this article on Asylum today, 8 Phrases That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean by Jeremy Taylor, and since it deals with words and their meanings, I couldn’t resist adding to the series of “What’s in a word” posts I’ve been doing.  Part 1 can be found here on Cait-Tales and Part 2 on the Dames of Dialogue blog.  I’d promise this is the last one, but I can’t really say that because as I said in one of the previous posts, I’m fascinated by words and their meanings so I’m sure I’ll be talking about them again.

Back to the article; it deals with common phrases that are often misused and the author hit on a couple that have bothered me for a while now plus one that I’m guilty of using.

For example, “I could care less.”  A lot of people use this when they really mean “I couldn’t care less.”  That one gets to me every time.

Then you have “PIN number.”  When you say that, you’re actually saying Personal Identification Number number, so yeah, a little redundant.  Same thing could be said for ISBN number and ATM machine.  I’ve used all of those but now that I know, I hope I’ll remember not to in the future.

Another one Mr. Taylor mentions that bugs me is “I did a 360.”  Really?  That means you turned completely around and ended up back in the same position you were in to start with, so unless you mean to imply that after careful thought you decided your first position was correct, don’t use it.  Say “I did a 180” or even “I did a 270,” or better yet, “I changed my mind.”

Since I’m a writer who is constantly trying to find just the right word or words to express what I want to say, things like that probably get to me more than they do other people.  And when you’re writing, you have to be even more diligent about choosing the right word.

For instance, “it’s a mute point.”  Hate that one, absolutely hate it and I see it quite a lot.  Since when do points have the power of speech?  It’s enough to get me to come out of lurkdom on a blog and tell the writer that a point can’t be mute but it can be “moot.”

A few years ago, I was really into a series by one of the better-known romance authors and I noticed she used “tow the line” in several of the books.  It drove me crazy–and threw me out of the story every single time.  Just wham!  As an author, you don’t want that.  Don’t know if that’s what caused me to lose interest in the series but it could’ve been a contributing factor.  I do wonder if anyone ever bothered to tell her or her editor that the correct phrase is “toe” the line?

Finally, one I’ve noticed a lot lately, and one that confuses me no matter if it’s used correctly or incorrectly, “all and all.”  Please, it should be “all in all” but don’t ask me why because I really don’t know.  I just know “all and all” is wrong.

I’m sure there are others and I’m sure if I were to go back and read every word I’ve written or examine every cliched phrase I’ve used in conversation, I’d find many times when I got it wrong too.

So there you have it, the final (?) post in my series about words and their meanings.  Oh wait, I’m scheduled to do a post in November for the Dames of Dialogue blog on…cliches.  Okay, this won’t be the last word from me on words after all…

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