THE average human says thousands of words a day, so a few of them are bound to be out of place.
There are lots of common words in our complicated language that have lost their meaning with time, or that have had their definitions rewritten by incorrect use over the years.
Here’s a list of 10 words that you’re probably not using correctly anymore.
How it’s often used: If I see one more person wearing those pants, I’m literally going to go blind.
Why that’s wrong: Because you’re not going to go blind. The word is incorrectly used to add emphasis to a sentence, when it really means to take a word in its usual or most basic sense without exaggeration.
Yes, you’ll find a dictionary definition of the incorrect use, and linguists argue it’s been around for a century or longer, but it’s informal. And it ain’t right.
How it’s often used: The sundae was the ultimate chocolate indulgence.
Why that’s wrong: Ultimate doesn’t mean the pinnacle or the best of something, although that’s how it’s regularly used. It means the last on a list of things, e.g. Their ultimate goal was to win the premiership.
How it’s often used: That girl is such a random.
Why that’s wrong: Random describes something that happens without method or decision, like random violence or random samples in an experiment. It doesn’t mean someone who’s odd, unusual or does unexpected things.
How it’s often used: I’ll never talk to him again, irregardless of an apology.
Why that’s wrong: Because irregardless isn’t a word. You’re thinking of “regardless”.
WOULD OF/SHOULD OF/COULD OF/MUST OF
How it’s often used: I would of gone to the shops that afternoon but it rained.
Why that’s wrong: The correct contractions are would’ve/should’ve/could’ve/must’ve. Some people hear the apostrophe-v-e as the word “of”. Not right.
How it’s often used: It’s a death row pardoned two minutes too late/And isn’t it ironic?
Why that’s wrong: We have Alanis Morissette to blame for many of the wrongly deployed examples of irony in the world today. Irony doesn’t refer to really bad things like a black fly in your chardonnay or 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Something is ironic when it is the opposite of what’s expected, often in a way that causes wry amusement.
How it’s often used: I quickly perused the aisles to see if there was anything I needed.
Why that’s wrong: To peruse something means to pay close attention to it, not just to quickly scan it.
How it’s often used: Today is our six-month anniversary.
Why that’s wrong: Congrats on reaching that milestone and everything, but an anniversary is technically something that happens once a year. The Latin root “annus” means “year”. Maybe the “monthversary” should become a thing?
How it’s often used: There were over 100 people at the party.
Why that’s wrong: “Over” should not be used when referring to a number. Use “more than” instead – e.g. There were more than 100 people at the party. The only exception is when you’re talking about someone’s age, e.g. He is over 40.
How it’s often used: The storm decimated the small village.
Why that’s wrong: You’ll often hear this word used on the news after a natural disaster when a cyclone decimates a fishing village or a tornado decimates a stadium. But it really means to kill one in every ten, e.g. The colonel decimated the large group of prisoners. Nowadays though, it’s acceptable to use the “decimate” when any large proportion of something is killed or destroyed.
Thanks to Oxford Dictionaries for help with the definitions.