Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Mis-used words and nonsense phrases

Have you ever noticed often people mis-use words and use nonsense phrases? Lately I have been paying more attention than usual to this, and I was surprised at how often this occurs. And its not just because I hang around with illiterate people. I've heard radio DJs and people on TV do this, too. Here are some of the most common ones:

Actually (mis-used word)
Use of the word actually indicates that something is so, despite how surprising or incredulous it sounds. "I actually saw him bite off his finger" would be the correct usage of the word. However, I was watching a show on HGTV called Semi-Homemade where the host, Sandra Lee, was demonstrating how to make something and said "Okay. Now, you're actually going to add the flour to the mixture in your bowl." Now what is so surprising or incredulous about adding flour to a mixture in a bowl while cooking? In fact, that was exactly what I anticipated she was going to do with that flour.

"To tell you the truth..." (nonsense phrase)
How many times have you heard someone you know - not a stranger - begin a sentence with "To tell you the truth..."? So what does that mean? All the other times they've been talking to you they were telling lies, but this time is different? Hmm...

Literally (mis-used word)
This one can be really funny! Some people use the word literally when they mean figuratively. "I literally kicked their butts during today's game!" Is that so? Wouldn't there be a penalty for doing that? What they really meant was that they figuratively kicked their butts. However, this mis-use bothers me less than most since it often creates comical mental images.

"Quite frankly..." (nonsense phrase)
This is truly a nonsense phrase, as it adds no value at all and is redundant. "Quite frankly, I hate her." I don't know about you but I would never confuse the statement 'I hate her' as anything other than frank. It certainly isn't subtle. Mostly, its redundant.

Irregardless (mis-used non-word)
This is probably my favorite. Irregardless is not a word. Regardless is a word. "Irregardless of how much money he makes..." almost sounds like its correct, but it isn't. The prefix 'ir' means without. (Irrelevant means without relevance.) The word regardless means without regard. So, if irregardless were a word, it would mean without without regard. If something is without without regard, then it has regard. But we use the word regarding to mean something with regard.

"I could care less" (nonsense phrase)
Here's another one that means the opposite of how people use it. "I could case less about her new car." If one could care less, that means that they do care to some degree. Yet, when people say "I could care less" they really mean that they could NOT care less, or they have no degree of care at all. So, "I could care less about her new car" really means 'I am mindful that she has a new car and I think about it".

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that everyone stop mis-using words and prefacing sentences with nonsense phrases. Sometimes they can be quite funny. And to tell you the truth, I could care less if literally everyone actually used them in every sentence, quite frankly, irregardless of whether they made sense. :-)

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