Written by David Hatz, Teacher, Coach, Statistician (ret.)

           I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a student say or write, “I could care less.” If I
did, I could have retired 10 years ago. OK, that is hyperbole. But truth be told, it’s an all-too-
common mistake made by students and adults alike.
           The correct phrase is, “I couldn’t care less,” which means you are indifferent and have
no feelings about someone or something. Saying “I could care less” suggests you do care and
that your level of concern could decrease.
           The term for these misstatements is eggcorn, pronounced egkôrn: a word or phrase
that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being
substituted for one that sounds very similar or identical (e.g. tow the line instead of toe the
line).
           Don’t confuse it with acorn, although doing so would make it an eggcorn.           
           While they are humorous to hear and read, these malaprops can reflect poorly on one’s
understanding of English. And that is unfortunate because, as I have said before, English is a
tricky and confusing language.
           Following are some more commonly heard clichés and idioms, followed by their
respective eggcorns. I hope you find them amusing and educational. I’m guessing many of you
already know the difference; either way, enjoy and learn.
           1. For all “intents and purposes” – not for all “intensive purposes.” “For all intents and
           purposes” means “in every practical way or virtually”; “for all intensive purposes” means
           “for all these thorough purposes,” which makes no sense.
           2. One “and” the same – not one “in” the same. “One and the same” suggests two things
           are alike; “one in the same” refers to one thing in a group of other things that look the
           same – meaningless.
           3. Case “in” point – not case “and” point. “Case in point” means an example of the point
           one is trying to make; using “and” makes them two different things, which wouldn’t
           help one’s argument.
           4. Nip it in the “bud” – not nip it in the “butt.” A flower that is “nipped in the bud”
           wouldn’t grow and blossom. This phrase is used to suggest that by taking care of
           something when it is a minor problem, you’ll be able to avert a crisis. The other phrase
           means to bite someone in the backside.
           5. “Deep-seated” – not “deep-seeded.” “Deep-seated” means something is firmly fixed in
           place; the other implies something is planted deeply.
           6. Should/could/would “have” – not should/could/would “of.” This is the bane of many
           (all?) English teachers because using “of” here is just wrong. You need to pair a verb
           with another verb. Otherwise, people will think “of” what?
           7. “Wreak” havoc – not “wreck” havoc. To “wreck” havoc means to destroy havoc, which
           is the opposite exact opposite of this phrase’s meaning; when you “wreak havoc,”
           you’re spreading chaos, anarchy, and destruction everywhere, which is really fun.
                     In closing, I will offer some ironic advice: Take pride correcting others when they
           use them incorrectly. But for general writing and speaking purposes, avoid using them.
           Instead, improve your writing by developing well-worded, concise and interesting ways
           of stating your points.
                     Moreover, clichés and idioms are trite and overused. Besides, they’re as “old as
           the hills.”

 

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