Discussions of English Language pet peeves provide an entertaining forum for the expression of ire. In fact, if a “pet” is something we cherish, and a “peeve” is something that annoys us, “pet peeves” are what we love to hate. Here’s a collection of common English solecisms—guaranteed not to literally blow your mind:
English Pet Peeves: Logic Problems
- “I could care less.” – If you’re expressing disinterest, you couldn’t care less.
- Every time I hear Paul McCartney sing, “But if this ever-changing world in which we live in…” I cringe. Correct usage is “… in which we live.”
- “The reason why this happened is because…” – use either “why” or “because,” but not both.
The reason this happened is because …
The reason why this happened is …
To be picky, we can do away with “The reason” if we precede the cause with “because.”
This happened because …
- “Where’s it at?” – It’s at over there.
- “Comprising of” – should be “comprising” or “comprised of.”
English Pet Peeves: Acronyms and Repetition
- Why repeat the word that the last letter stands for (ISBN, VIN, ATM)?
- Shouldn’t we get ISB numbers for our books?
- Why don’t our cars have VI Numbers?
- Why don’t we get cash from an AT Machine?
- Plan ahead, plan for the future – can you plan behind?
- Hot water heater – Why would you heat it if it’s already hot?
- Past history – As opposed to future history?
- It was a very unique experience – Are there degrees of uniqueness?
- final conclusion – conclusions are assumed to be final unless you specify they’re preliminary
- pre-recorded – You can only record it once.
- pre-planned – Is this the time before the planning?
- reply back or respond back – “Back” is assumed.
- first-ever – if it’s first, “ever” is implied.
- Same difference – Please choose one.
- Free Gift – Really? I usually pay for gifts.
- The seminar orientated me to my new job responsibilities. (oriented)
- We’ll conversate after the meeting. (converse)
Confusion and Abuse
- “You’ve got two choices.” – usually means someone has one choice between two options.
- “…on either side” – usually means on both sides
- “It literally blew my mind” – usually means figuratively. Your head did not explode.
- further vs. farther – farther refers to physical distance; further refers to figurative distance: “Is it more than a mile farther down the road?” “Yes, would you like further directions?”
- lie vs. lay – To “lay down” means to spread baby duck feathers across a surface.
- lose vs. loose – If your button is loose, you’ll lose it when it falls off.
- everyday vs. every day – Summer rains are an everyday occurrence; they happen every day.
- good vs. well – “good” describes character or desirability. “Well” describes status.
- fewer vs. less – Use “fewer” with countable objects. Use “less” to refer to matters of degree or status: After the delivery, one less package left him with fewer to deliver.
- advise vs. inform – to “advise” is to suggest. To “inform” is to present with factual information.
- goes vs. says – “goes” is outright slang—not an acceptable substitute for “says.”
- loath vs. loathe – “Loath” is an adjective meaning hesitant or unwilling. “Loathe” is a verb meaning to dislike.
- discrete vs. discreet – “Discrete” means different or unique. “Discreet” means hidden or respectful of privacy.
- moot vs. mute – The point was moot and not worth pursuing so Bill stayed mute on the matter.
- incidences instead of incidents
- ensure vs. insure – To “insure” means to purchase insurance. To “ensure” means to make sure: He insured his valuables to ensure their safety.
- Irregardless – “regardless” with a skin tab
- nuclear vs. nucular – “Nucular” is a mispronunciation of “nuclear.”
- alot vs. a lot – “Alot” is incorrect; use two words to suggest “a lot full of items.”
- .50 cents = half a penny
- peaked vs. piqued – “Piqued” means to catch attention. “The coin piqued his interest but in a few moments, his curiosity peaked and then he moved on.
- data vs. datum – data is a plural noun, often used incorrectly as a singular noun.
- doable vs. feasible – “doable” is an improvised “verb + able” word
- use vs. utilize – “utilize” is pedantic and pseudosophisticated
- momentarily – means for a very short time. When the pilot says, “We’ll be in the air momentarily, he’s implying that you’ll only be off the ground for a moment.”
- waiting on vs. waiting for – The attendant waited on the customers while they waited for their luggage to arrive.
- should of vs. should have
- different from vs. different than – “different from” is technically correct: The red ball is different from the blue ones. Use “different than” when making a comparison: Today, things are different than they were in 1980.
- “One in ten people are …” – the subject (One) is singular, so use “is.”
Hollow Clichés and Crutches
- “To be honest with you…” – can’t we assume you’re being honest?
- “The fact of the matter is…” – an empty crutch phrase
- “untimely death” – who schedules their death? These words cling together to form a tired cliché.
- “back in the day” – does this mean breakfast?
- impact vs. affect – “impact” is not a verb, though its use as one is so widespread that it will probably become one.
- who vs. whom – “whom” is fading from language to a point where many grammarians are discarding it like “thee” and “thou.” You’ll find a list of them in Who’s Whom? For Editors.
- functionality vs. function – lots of common crossover here. Theoretically, a program with more functions has greater functionality.
What are your favorite English pet peeves? Or is it redundant to have a “favorite” pet peeve?