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15 Commonly Mangled & Misused Phrases

12. Toward, Anyway

These words do not have an “s” on the end. “Towards” and “anyways” may have a folksy, rustic quality in spoken English, but they are not used in formal writing.

13. With Bated Breath

Only if my fiancé ate a whole tub of Nutella would he have irresistible “baited breath.” “Bated breath,” as the expression actually goes, contains a shortened form of the word “abated,” meaning held off or postponed. I’ll wait with bated breath for my fiancé to get started on that Nutella.

14. Sleight of Hand

Although magicians might have “slight” hands with nimble and slender fingers, their art is called “sleight of hand,” which means deceit or dexterity. Theoretically, however, an illusionist in need of more practice could have developed only a slight sleight of hand.

15. Beck and Call

Many people conflate idiomatic expressions when they don’t understand where they come from, and the result is many expressions like this one, which ends up being transcribed as “beckon call.” “Beck” is an old form of the word “beckon,” and it simply means that you are accessible to somebody via either gesture or vocalization.

Mangled forms of English idioms may be common, but that doesn’t make them right. And unfortunately, correcting other people’s grammar is not always a surefire method of gaining popularity. If you don’t feel comfortable explaining the difference between “bring,” “brung,” and “brought,” it’s okay to let it go, but if you encounter someone who insists on using the word “supposably,” please … gently remind him that there is no such word. You’ll be doing us all a big favor.

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238 comments

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1:27AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Thank you :)

12:27PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

Interesting

7:48PM PST on Dec 27, 2013

And there I go slipping an extra I've in my post...Sheesh!

7:47PM PST on Dec 27, 2013

Frankly, most of these are a symptom of lazy pronunciation, mostly by teachers and TV/movie characters over the decades. In fact, one I've back slam I've used when people threw "baited breath" at me was "did you just eat a worm?"

2:15PM PST on Dec 3, 2013

Thanks a lot, Sonia! I thought that 'towards' was the one I'd got wrong!

3:54AM PST on Nov 13, 2013

"I do not think that word means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya

3:46AM PST on Nov 13, 2013

Dis ain't yer gramma's grammer klass.

7:57AM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Agree with Kirsten M - great article, except for the incorrect "toward(s)" comment

5:51AM PST on Dec 14, 2012

Thank you Samantha, for Sharing this!

2:29PM PST on Dec 11, 2012

love this. I am an avid reader and an English language junkie so these types of things intrigue me.

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