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  • Julie Vallone

Six More Common Phrases We Get Wrong

A while back, we published a blog that left many readers rethinking a bunch of expressions they could have sworn they had down pat. “Six Phrases We Get Wrong” challenged many not-quite-accurate uses of common sayings and definitively settled some arguments over how to say them right. We thought it would be a great opportunity to help everybody brush up on their idiomatic intelligence with the next installment of our series. Note: we’ve included a word in here as well as phrases because, if you’ve been saying it wrong the whole time, we think you’d want to know.

A whole nuther

Correct Term: A whole other

So there’s no such thing as a “nuther.” But you probably know that. Usually the problem with this one isn’t that people think “nuthers” exist, but that they don’t even realize they’re saying the word when they are. (Guilty!) Since this is generally more a problem with speech and not with writing, the fix is easy: Just slow down a bit and try to fight the tendency to throw the “n” sound in there, which probably sneaks in when your brain synapses misfire and confuse “other” with “another.”

For all intensive purposes

Correct Phrase: For all intents and purposes

The first thing to know here is that purposes might be steadfast, but they generally aren’t “intensive,” which relates to intensity. Best to save “intensive” for things like hospital care, workshops and physical properties (in Chemistry). The correct term is “all intents and purposes,” which comes from a 16th century English law that said, ““to all intents, constructions, and purposes.” Eventually it was shortened to “all intents and purposes,” which means “in every practical sense” or “in effect.” What’s odd about the correct way of saying this one, though, it seems a bit redundant. Intent and purpose show up on lots of synonym lists. But in fact, while the meaning of “intents” is close to “purposes,” they’re not really interchangeable. Intents is a whole nuther—oops!—a whole other word.


Correct Word: Regardless

Irregardless is a favorite of speeches, reports, essays, news commentaries and other places where some people like to use big words. The problem is that it’s too big, and it’s a double negative to boot. No need to put “ir” on a word that already has “less,” regardless if you think it sounds better.

It’s a doggy dog world

Correct Phrase: It’s a dog eat dog world

As you can see, this phrase isn’t as warm and fuzzy as you may thought. In fact, it actually conveys kind of a brutal image to describe a highly competitive, even cutthroat, environment. It derives from a Latin phrase canis caninam non est, which means the opposite, “a dog does not eat the flesh of a dog.” Later, in the 1700s, British scholar Thomas Fuller wrote, “Dogs are hard drove when they eat dogs.” So if a dog is driven to cannibalism, things must be pretty rough out there.

One in the Same

Correct Phrase: One and the same

If “one in the same” was the correct expression, you might think of something like Russian nesting dolls, a bigger doll containing successively smaller versions of itself. But alas, it’s wrong. The correct phrase is “one and the same,” which is used when most people think of one person or thing as two people or things. Example: Clark Kent and Superman are one in the same.

Scott Free

Correct Phrase: Scot free

In case you thought otherwise, this term has nothing to do with some guy named Scott. The word is actually “scot,” with one “t,” and it derives from the Scandinavian word skat, meaning tax or payment. A scot was a medieval tax, and if you didn’t get in trouble for not paying it, you were scot free. So, in modern parlance, you might have done something wrong or got caught up in a bad situation and walked away scot free. The good news here is that, in conversation vs. writing, no one will know you’ve messed this one up if you do. You’ll have gotten away with it—scot free.

If you have been getting all these wrong all this time, don’t fret. Lots of people make the mistakes above. But knowing how to say them right—like social distancing—will separate you from the rest.

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