English is a difficult language, according to many language learners, and it may be so because it is easy to use the wrong words if you are not careful. Some words only have one meaning that is clear and distinct. However, many English words are spelled the same way but may have different meanings based on context and usage. Some words are specific, such as man and woman or tiger and elephant.
There are words with usage is not that simple and it is probable that English language learners have come across some of them and failed to use them properly. It is not only the people trying to learn English who are prone to using the wrong words. Even native speakers can make the same mistake. It’s not just words that may confuse you. Some English phrases are incorrectly used by many people.
Do you know the term for a word (or phrase) that is erroneously used for another? It’s called an eggcorn. It’s a term coined in 2003 by British-American linguist Geoffrey Pullum, whose specialization is the study of the English language. Professor Pullum teaches General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Learning about these words that you may be using wrongly helps you build a stronger vocabulary.
Words change constantly
Words, in any language are constantly changing. The changes might be in their use, their spelling or their pronunciation. For example, the term awful. It is a combination of awe that evokes a feeling of wonder or inspiration and full (complete, filled, replete). Awful used to mean a thing that fills you with wonder and awe. Another meaning that is attached to it is a thing that makes you feel fear. Through the years of use, the second meaning stuck, so now, awful is used to refer to something unpleasant or bad.
The Internet also has something to do with the changes in the English language. Since there are people who used the wrong words and there is no one to correct them, their use spread faster than ever. So now there are more people who use many words incorrectly.
Over time, many of the words that are used wrongly will have new meanings. So, if you are a language learner or someone who wants to check if they are making a mistake in using a word, read on. As English speakers and writers, you should be responsible for using the right words all the time.
Words that many people use and say wrongly
Many people use the term literally to mean very or figuratively. Often, the term is added to a phrase to exaggerate or emphasize it. However, the actual meaning of literally is without exaggeration, exactly or actually. It is used to indicate that something is precise or exact. So, it is all right to say that you are so hungry you could literally eat a horse but it is wrong to say that you are literally dying of laughter.
Some people use this term to mean a small fact. The correct meaning of factoid is false fact. The word was first used by Norman Mailer, an activist, author and journalist. He first used the term in 1973 when he was talking about facts that are untrue, referring to the ”facts” that media make up. People inadvertently use factoid to refer to small facts that are often repeated by many people that it almost becomes a fact. The suffix –oid means like or resembling, therefore factoid equates to fact-like.
You might have heard some people say the term irregardless when they mean to say despite or without consideration of the circumstances or regardless. But you have to know that irregardless does not have a meaning because there is no such word. But somehow, the term has been existing since the 1700s and was probably used because of the word irrespective, that means regardless, in spite of, even though or anyway. Irrespective is seldom used, though.
Entitled is often used to mean the title of a show, a film, an artwork or a book. However, the right meaning of entitled is having the right to something (or believing that you have a right to a thing).
If you bought a house for example, you are entitled to own it legally. You have the right to freedom of speech so you are entitled to your opinion. Some people, due to whatever circumstances, act entitled, meaning they feel that they deserve to be given special treatment.
Remember to use titled when you refer to anything that has a title.
It is easy to make a mistake in using the term poisonous. For many users, it means that you will be poisoned if something bites you or you eat something bad. You use the word poisonous if you refer to something that will poison you if you ingest it. The other term that many people think is the same in meaning is venomous. The administration of the poison makes the difference. When a thing with poison is eaten, it is poisonous. When something with poison such as scorpion, snake, spider or shrew bites you, it’s venomous.
6. Passers-by and runners-up
The terms are all right but there are some people who make the mistake in using the plural form, so instead of passers-by and runners-up, they use passer-bys and runner-ups. The hyphen can be removed, but what you need to remember is that plural is for the people rather than the adjective.
Often, people use the word ironic to refer to an unfortunate occurrence or situation. But they are using the word wrong because its actual meaning is incongruity between what you expect and what actually happens. It could refer to something mocking or a humorously sarcastic remark.
Infamous does not mean that something is very popular or famous. The word should be used only when you refer to someone who became famous for the wrong reasons. You can also use infamous to refer to someone notorious, having the worst reputation, disreputable, shady, disgraceful or dishonorable.
Inflammable is a word that many people use to mean something that is not flammable. This is the wrong word to use when you mean to say that something is quick to ignite, because inflammable means flammable so you can use these two words interchangeably. The error in the usage is due to the prefix (in-) that normally means not. However, inflammable actually came from enflame, the less common version of inflame, which means to set on fire or kindle and to make more heated.
What word should you use when you mean that something is slow to ignite or does not burn quickly? Use non-flammable, which is the correct term.
Bemused does not mean that someone is detachedly amused. Bemused means that someone is bewildered or confused. Because bemused and amused appear similar, people thought that one or the other means the same thing. Someone who is bemused is bewildered, puzzled or confused. Occasionally, you can use the word when you see that someone is deep in thought.
11. Imply and infer
A lot of people use the two words interchangeably because they think that they have the same meaning. When you are indirectly staring or expressing something, you use the word imply. Imply can be used to mean hint, allude, insinuate or indicate. The word infer has a deeper meaning. It is used when you establish a deduction by logical reasoning or from facts. You can use it to mean that you guess something correctly. Synonyms for infer include conclude, deduce, judge and extrapolate.
If you use the word travesty to mean something unfortunate or tragic, you are using the wrong word. Travesty means a parody or mockery. You can say that travesty is a grossly inferior, debased or distorted imitation. On the other hand, tragedy means a calamity or disastrous event.
You might be one of the people who think that ultimate means the best, the only or the one. It is the wrong meaning though because you should use ultimate to indicate that something is the last one included in the list or the last item.
Peruse is one of those words that many people wrongly use. For most users, they use the term to mean that mean to browse or to skim. However, when you use peruse, you are actually looking at something very closely or observing something in depth. Use browse when you are looking at several things, like books. When you are checking the author, the synopsis and other information, you are in the act of perusing the book.
If you think that redundant means repetitive, you’ve got it all wrong. Redundant actually means unnecessarily excessive, surplus, superfluous, lavish or profuse.
This word is confusing because you can use redundant when something is repeated so many times. In the business context, redundance means that some employees are no longer needed and the company ”fires them” or “eliminates redundancies.”
There are so many words and phrases in the English language that many people are using incorrectly. To avoid using the wrong words, be sure to refer to a dictionary for terms that you do not understand, confuse you or do not sound right.
Ensuring the use of the right words and terminology
It is the responsibility of the translator to ensure that the right words and the correct terminology are used for the specific translation project. The quality and accuracy of the translation is important, not only to the client but also to the person or the organization that is doing the translation. To ensure that your documents are translated correctly and accurately, work with professionals. Day Translations, Inc. is a professional language services providers. We only work with human translators who are native speakers and live in-country. Our translators are experts in various fields with years of experience and professional training. For your literary translation requirements, call us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us. We are available 24/7, every day of the year, to quickly respond to your translation need any time of the day, wherever you may be.
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