Often, we know what we want to say, so we chose a word that seems most likely to convey our thoughts. However, sometimes, we pick the wrong word or use a word wrongly. Here are some examples.

Ironic:  Probably one of the most misused words in the English language, ironically, does not mean something funny or odd that happens or even an annoying coincidence. In literature, there are several different types of ironies. The most common definition of ironic actually means, “An occurrence that is the direct opposite of what you expected to happen.” For instance, if you were expecting snow, but it turned out to be a 75-degree day, that is ironic.

Peruse:  If you think you perused that magazine in the grocery store by flipping through its pages, or you perused your notes seconds before that exam, you didn’t. Perusing doesn’t mean to skim through a text, although that’s how most people use the word. It actually means, “To read something carefully and closely.”

Instant:  Thanks to instant coffee, instant pudding, instant oatmeal, and instant rice, you probably think the word instant means faster than fast. You’d be wrong about that. Instant means a specific moment in time so short that you cannot measure it in any way. It is a nanosecond frozen in time, such as a photograph.  Therefore, it is definitely shorter than the time it takes to make pudding.

Enormity:  Just because a word sounds like another word doesn’t mean they also mean the same thing. Enormity doesn’t mean enormous, even though they look the same. Enormity means a great evil or immoral act.  So, when you refer to the “enormity of it all,” you’re not citing its size, but its immense evil character.

Decimate:  If you think you decimated your friend in the game of Battleship, you would only be right if you destroyed just 10 percent of their ships. When you wipe out their entire fleet, you obliterate or exterminate. It’s a cool sounding word, but it only means 90% of what most people think it means.

Fortuitous:  This is another one of those sneaky words that sounds a little like another word.  In this case, “fortune.”  Instead of meaning gaining something by being in the right place at the right time, fortuitous means by pure chance. Word to the wise, something can be fortuitous and also be bad.  Running into your boss at a shopping mall when you called in sick that day might feel unlucky, but it by percentages of chance it was also fortuitous.

Plethora:  Thinking of that huge bowl filled with three full bags of Cool Ranch Doritos Chips as a plethora is right, but not because you have so much. Having a plethora of those delicious snack chips means that you have an excessive amount over and above what one person actually needs to eat.

Bemused:  Another word that traps people because it sounds like something else. Bemused doesn’t mean something that amuses you, even though both are nearly identical in appearance. Being bemused means, something puzzles or confuses you. You’re only bemused by a comedian if you don’t get his or her jokes.

Literally:  Like the word “ironic,” literally is a word misused by a lot of people. Using the word as an emphasis in a sentence is not correct unless what you are saying actually happened.  For instance, telling your friends that you laughed so hard you literally fell out of your chair is only embarrassing if you actually did fall.

Irregardless:  Irregardless doesn’t have an alternative definition because it doesn’t exist. It’s not an actual word. What you meant to say was, regardless. The two aren’t interchangeable because only one is found in the English language dictionary. To say, irregardless only proves that you really don’t know the English language very well, regardless of your claims.

Disinterested:  If something bores you or doesn’t keep your attention, you are uninterested. But when you are impartial, or you simply don’t care about a subject, then you are disinterested. On a blind date, you might be uninterested when he talks about his Lego collection, but you might be disinterested if one of your friends thinks he’s cute, especially if he’s already gone on and on about the Lego set.

Redundant:  This is one of those tricky words that we can easily get wrong. Redundant doesn’t mean repetitive. When something is redundant, it means you’ve already made that statement in another way earlier in the text. When it’s repetitive, you’re repeating yourself using the same words.

Misappropriately: As used when saying that someone acted misappropriately. There is no such word.  The actual term is acting inappropriately. To appropriate means to set apart for a specific use.  When that is done, then it is used appropriately. However, to take that which was set apart for a specific use and use it for something else is to misappropriate. We can see then how this word was coined.

So, it does count when we chose our words wisely. It often shows that not only do we know what we want to say, but we can essentially say what we know in a clear and precise way. Today we hear politicians use the phrase “misspoke.” It actually means to speak inaccurately, inappropriately, or too hastily. But in fact, they use it to cover up what they actually said that got them into trouble or brought them embarrassment. One thing for sure, never use it as an excuse with God, He knows every language because at the Tower of Babel He issued languages. He is, without doubt, our Divine Dictionary. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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