7 Commonly Misused Phrases

Seven commonly misused phrases and what you should say instead of making unsolicited grammar corrections

Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

1. “It’s I couldn’t care less! If you could care less then you do care!”¹

What you actually meant was “I loved it in middle school when I asked if I could go to the bathroom and the teacher said I don’t know, can you?”²

2. “I hate text-speak. What do BTW and AF even stand for? Why can’t you just take an extra minute and type it out?”

You really want to say “I’m getting old and I’m scared and angry about it.”³

3. “Irregardless isn’t a real word.⁴ You mean regardless.

What you meant to say was “Sometimes I just need to feel superior and the only way I know how to do that is to correct someone’s grammar.”⁵

4. “Just because they added ain’t and y’all to the dictionary doesn’t mean they’re correct English!”

To make yourself clearer you could just say “I’m a little bit racist and classist but in an educated liberal way. All of my close friends are white.”⁶

5. “It’s Jane and me not me and Jane.”

What you really mean is “In fourth grade I was in the advanced reading class and I’ve been holding onto that high ever since.”⁷

6. “I’m well.”

What you meant was “I’m very smart and know that you shouldn’t say I’m good” but both are grammatically correct because “to be” indicates a state of being and requires an adjective (like “good”) not an adverb you pretentious ass.⁸

7. “It’s whom not who.”

What you should have said, perhaps loudly, so everyone at the party could hear, was “Sometimes I feel empty inside and I don’t know why.”⁹


Footnotes:

1. Yes in the most literal sense these phrases mean two different things but we all know what people mean when they say “I could care less.” Don’t be that guy. Plus, this phrase has been used “incorrectly” since at least the 60s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

1966. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 1 Nov. 21/2 My husband is a lethargic, indecisive guy who drifts along from day to day. If a bill doesn’t get paid he could care less.

2. No one liked these teachers. Don’t be like these teachers.

3. This might be hard to believe, but pretty much every single generation has thought their successors were ruining language. In 1871, the president of Harvard said “Bad spelling, incorrectness as well as inelegance of expression in writing, ignorance of the simplest rules of punctuation, and almost entire want of familiarity with English literature, are far from rare among young men of 18 otherwise well prepared for college studies.” Kids these days.

And many studies have proven that texting isn’t actually making teens bad spellers, if that’s what keeps you up at night.

4. It is a word. The OED has recorded it being used the same way as “regardless” since the early 1900s:

1921 Ring Lardner, The Big Town I told them that irregardless of what you read in books, they’s some members of the theatrical profession that occasionally visits the place where they sleep.

The argument that the prefix/suffix combination makes a double negative is dumb. English has never stuck to strict rules regarding affixes. Think inflammable, undiscovered, and disincline.

5. And words are allowed to shift in meaning. Until around the 1500s, “silly” could also mean “blessed”. But in the late 13th century, people started using it to mean harmless, and from there the meaning changed. Wow, it’s almost like language is constantly evolving based on how people use it.

6. “Ain’t” has been around since at least 1741. “Y’all” since 1848. Both are used in consistent patterns and follow their own grammatical rules. Next time you have a strong dislike for a word, contraction, or phrase, take a good hard look at who’s using it and then take a look at your own prejudices and maybe realize it’s not actually about the word.

7. I’m pretty positive English teachers came up with this rule at some point in the 1900s just because they thought we needed a rule for listing names. They were mistaken.

8. Yes “I’m doing good” is technically incorrect grammar but if you’re going to be a snob about it say “I’m doing well” or “I’m good” don’t just pretend “well” is always the “right” word to use all the time.

9. Okay yes, “whom” is an object and “who” is a subject and “whom” is sometimes the grammatically correct version to use. But modern English has dropped pretty much every other case declensions so why can’t we all just agree to drop the “-m” on “who” too? “Whom” sounds weird.