14 Sayings People Use Incorrectly: The Hilariously Muddled Mix-ups

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Language is a peculiar beast, and they navigate it with an admirable but often misguided enthusiasm. They throw around phrases with the confidence of a cat strutting in a sunbeam, blissfully unaware that they’re sometimes just a whisker away from making sense. The English language is riddled with sayings and idioms that are a minefield of misquotations. Whether it’s a slight mix-up of words or replacing them with ones that sound familiar, these errors can turn a wise adage into a humorous misstep.

They often don’t realize the mishaps slipping off their tongues. “For all intensive purposes,” they say, trying to sound profound, but little do they know, “intents and purposes” was the star of the show all along. Everyday conversations are peppered with these quirky blunders, making for a delightful cocktail of confusion and charm. It’s these slip-ups that color their speech with unintentional comedy, endearing and exasperating listeners in equal measure.

Literally vs. Figuratively

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People often claim to be “literally dying of laughter,” but rest assured, there’s no need to call emergency services. Literally means something actually happened, while figuratively speaks to metaphorical truths. So unless there’s an actual ghost chuckling at memes, they’re likely figuratively dying of laughter.

  • Correct: “He’s literally breathing.”
  • Incorrect: “I’m literally starving.”

I Could Care Less


This rogue phrase often implies a lack of interest, but they’re getting it backward. Saying “I could care less” suggests there’s still some care left to spare. The accurate culprit is, “I couldn’t care less,” showing that the speaker’s care tank is emphatically on empty.

  • Correct: “I couldn’t care less about the color of my toothbrush.”
  • Incorrect: “I could care less about celebrity gossip.”

For All Intents and Purposes

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The sneaky phrase often morphs into “for all intensive purposes,” which might make one envision purposes lifting weights. The correct phrase, “for all intents and purposes,” means “in every practical sense.”

  • Correct: “For all intents and purposes, the deal was closed.”
  • Incorrect: “For all intensive purposes, the deal was final.”

Food for Thought


When navigating the English language, one might think it’s a piece of cake to always get the phrases right. But often, people bite the bullet and use expressions incorrectly when trying to break the ice.

Piece of Cake

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A phrase intended to describe something that’s incredibly easy, a “Piece of Cake” unfortunately doesn’t always involve actual dessert. Misinterpreting this as involving fluffy sponge and frosting is a common blunder one might laugh off over a cup of tea.

Bite the Bullet


Originally referring to a patient clamping down on a bullet during surgery without anesthesia, “Bite the Bullet” now means to endure a painful experience. If anyone thinks it’s about testing ammunition with your teeth, they’re in for a tough chew!

Break the Ice

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Designed to describe the act of initiating conversation in an awkward or tense situation, “Break the Ice” is not an invitation to start a chilly demolition project. Instead, it’s about warming up the atmosphere without the need for a metaphorical pickaxe.

Technically Speaking


When it comes to the English language, even the best of us can fumble. This section hones in on those pesky phrases that so many get wrong. They may think they’re saying something profound, only to have grammar gurus left face-palming in dismay.

Begs the Question

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One might think “begs the question” is a fancy way of saying “raises another question,” but technically, it’s not. It actually refers to a logical fallacy where the argument assumes the conclusion in its premises; they’re essentially saying the proof is in the pudding—without showing the pudding.

Nip it in the Bud

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While nipping something in the butt conjures amusing images, the true phrase actually originates from gardening. By nipping something in the bud, one is stopping it from growing or developing further—snipping off those tiny flower buds before they bloom into a full-grown issue.

  • Correct: “Nip it in the bud.”
  • Incorrect: “Nip it in the butt.”

Take for Granite


Unless they’re discussing countertop materials, when someone says “take for granite,” they usually mean “take for granted.” This phrase acts as a reminder not to overlook the value of something, assuming it’s as plentiful and sturdy as, well, granite.

  • Correct: “Take for granted.”
  • Incorrect: “Take for granite.”

Blood is Thicker Than Water

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The phrase “Blood is thicker than water” is commonly hurled around to signify that family bonds are stronger than any other relationships. However, the original sentiment may have been the total opposite. The fuller version reads, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” suggesting that chosen bonds of battle or belief may supersede those of birth.

The Short End of the Stick


“Getting the short end of the stick” conveys the misfortune of receiving the lesser share or deal. Legend has it that the phrase stemmed from a Roman practice involving a stick with a marked end, which people grabbed blindly. The unlucky soul who grabbed the short part handled the lesser role or task. Though an amusing origin story, there’s little historical evidence to back it up, and it’s likely a modern interpretation.

Rule of Thumb


The “Rule of Thumb” phrase is frequently cited as deriving from an old legal rule allowing a man to beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb. It’s a myth. The term more innocuously refers to using one’s thumb as a rough measurement tool. It’s a useful tidbit to throw into a conversation to correct this commonly held historical blunder.