You have to love Sean Bean and since I do, here he is. No other reason really. :)
I love words and I also love clichés. They have become clichés for a reason, and I embrace them fully. I do use them sparingly in my writing, depending upon the period I’m writing about.
On occasion, in research or even in reading, I come across phrases that are so blatantly wrong, but they weren’t caught in editing. Others are phrases that a new generation decided needed changing, perhaps to sound hipper. Bad will always mean bad, and sick will always mean sick. Sorry, folks, but meanings aren’t changed simply because you want them to be. And don’t get me started on the silly spellings I see on social media. Yep, I’m a purist.
For fun, I have created a list of some of my favorites.
Graduated high school – Grammar Girl, my person grammar heroine, says this about that: “To graduate is a verb-transitive or intransitive. Transitive verb takes an object and an intransitive verb doesn’t. Object is a thing or person the verb is transferring action to-the thing the subject is taking action on. When you say someone graduated from a specific college, you are using the intransitive form of “to graduate” because the verb has no object. Let’s say Mr. X got a degree from Burrow College. Although it’s a bit archaic, the formal way to say this using the intransitive form of the verb “to graduate” is to say, “Mr. X was graduated from Burrow.”
The more modern way to say it and still be correct is “Mr. X graduated from Burrow.”
You need the “from.” Mr. X graduated FROM Burrow. The shortest form of this sentence would be “Mr. X graduated.” If you think about it that way, you can see that “from Burrow” isn’t an object, it’s just a prepositional phrase that tells you more about where Squiggly graduated from.
The thing is, when you say, “Mr. X graduated Burrow,” you’ve turned “to graduate” into a transitive verb. By definition, the act of graduating is something a school does to a student, not something a student does to a school. Schools graduate students. You could say that Burrow graduated 600 students this year. However, if you say, “Mr. X graduated Burrow,” you’re making Mr. X the subject and Burrow the object and saying that Mr. X did something to the college. It’s possible Mr. X did many things to the college during his tenure there. He may have damaged the college, delighted the college, or desecrated the college–but he didn’t graduate the college.
Whole, entire life – whole and entire mean the same thing, so there is no reason for the redundancy. Whole life or entire life would suffice.
AM in the morning – this one is so obvious, yet I read it and hear it on television all the time. A.M. means ante meridiem, which is Latin for before noon. To say that breakfast is served at 9AM in the morning, you are really saying breakfast is served at 9AM before noon in the morning, which is something we wouldn’t say, is it?
Same exact – Really? Don’t they mean the same thing?
Try to explain/Try and explain – Easily mistaken, but Try to explain is the correct phrasing.
Holed up/Hold up – Holed up means hide in a literal hole or a cave for shelter. Hold up means to rob. Two quite different things.
Took this tack/tact – at Grammartist.com, we find this about that: “Tact is sensitivity in social situations. A tack is a course or an approach (the word has nautical origins). When switching courses or taking a different approach, one changes tack, not tact.
Tact often appears in place of tack. Presumably some people think of it as short for tactic, which is synonymous with tack in some contexts. This is understandable given how rare tack is, but tact is not conventionally short for tactic, and, fairly or not, phrases like change tact are generally considered wrong by people who pay attention to these things.”
Every single time – We all say it and it is silly upon examination. Every time will suffice.
The whole world – If you speak of the world as a whole, then there is no reason to say the whole world. If you mean part of the world, then you would say world at all.
The very first time – The intensifier very is used to make a stronger point, but it is unneeded. The first time is quite sufficient. Very changes nothing. More on intensifiers in my May column.
Close proximity – Grr! Proximity means close. Such a shame that screenwriters use close proximity with abandon. Correctly used, it reads: We are in proximity of the restaurant.
By accident/on accident – My children used to say this all the time, albeit briefly. It is said that language changes over time – bad meaning good, etc. Simply because people adopt a certain way of speaking, doesn’t make it correct, does it?
By accident is the correct way to say this and to say on accident makes you sound like a ten year old, whose mother hasn’t corrected them. My children weren’t that lucky.
That’s so much fun/That’s so fun – This corruption is relatively new to my ears. This is what grammarphobia.com has to say: “Fun” is traditionally a noun (a thing, as in “We had fun”), not an adjective. So you usually wouldn’t use it as a modifier (“We had a fun day”). An exception would be when “fun” is a predicate nominative – a noun that follows a verb and modifies the subject (“This is fun”).
Therefore, it would be OK to use “fun” in a sentence like “Skiing is fun,” but not in one like “We had a fun day on the slopes.”
For the same reason, the ubiquitous and annoying “so fun” is incorrect, but “so much fun” is not. If you mentally substitute a noun like “entertainment,” you can see why. You wouldn’t say “so entertainment,” but you could say “so much entertainment.” Similarly you could say “This is entertainment” (predicate nominative).
He’s so bad (when we mean good)
That’s ridiculous, when you mean just the opposite.
You have sick talent
As my parents did before me, I will blame rock n roll. Seriously, saying any of these things doesn’t make one sound cool. Actually, it sounds uneducated. Words mean what they mean and no hipster will ever make them mean something else.
All of a sudden/All of the sudden/All the sudden – The correct phrase is the first, all of a sudden. The other two are just ridiculous.
My head literally exploded – Ah, no it didn’t. How do I know this? Because if it did, you wouldn’t be here to tell me it did.
Lying about her/ lying on her – When you tell a lie about someone, you are lying about them. When you lie on someone, well, that is quite personal and we don’t need to know.
Card sharp/card shark – Grammartist.com sorts this for us: Card sharp is preferred in British English, while card shark is more common in American, Canadian, and Australian English. They share their main definitions—namely, (1) a professional card player, (2) a person who is skilled in card games, and (3) a person who is skilled in cheating at card games. The British card sharp more often implies cheating. Card shark, especially in American English,is often simply a term for someone who spends a lot of time playing cards.
Homed in/honed in – You home in, which means you zero in, as opposed to hone in. To hone means to sharpen or improve.
Think to myself or thought to myself – say them several times and you’ll see why they are on this list. They make no sense. Of course you think to yourself. You can’t think to anyone else.
I had a thought in my mind – I do so hate those thoughts from other people in my mind.
For naught/for not – For naught is the correct saying. Don’t know where the other one came from.
For all intents and purposes/ For all intensive purposes – Intensive means rigorous and focused, but it’s not the same thing as “for all intents and purposes.”
Another think coming/Another thing coming – The complete phrase goes “If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming.”
Jibe with/Jive with – Jibe with means to agree with. Jive is a dance.
Pique my interest/Peak/peek my interest – Pique means to provoke or arouse, which makes more sense in context. Peak is highest point and peek is to, well, peek.
Scot free/Scott free – This means without incurring payment or penalty. ‘Scot’ as a term for tax in various forms – Church scot, Rome scot, Soul scot, etc. Whatever the tax, the phrase ‘getting off scot free’ simply refers to not paying one’s taxes.
Bated breath/Baited breath
Bated – Breathing that is subdued because of some emotion or difficulty. Baited breath simply means you have worms in your mouth. Remember this one that way.
Without further ado/Without further adieu – Ado is commotion. Adieu means farewell in French.
Should have/ Should of – “Of” is a preposition, not an auxiliary verb like “should.”
Try to/Try and – “And” is often used in place of a preposition after a verb, but the more appropriate version is to use “to” — in most cases.
Beck and call/ Beckon call – At one’s beck and call means you are ready to obey one’s command immediately. Beckon means to hail or call over.
Words are always such fun, but when we craft phrases for our writing, we should get them right. Each one of these and many others are easily Googled.
Next month, I’ll tackle intensifiers in writing. Strange how most are not needed at all, but they are used with abandon. Sure sign you don’t need them is when the sentence doesn’t change meaning without them.
Until then, happy reading.
Author Bio: Born in a small town in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.
Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.
Tarnished Gold, the first in her Tarnished series for Dreamspinner, was a winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, Historical Romance category. It also nominations for Best Historical and Best Book of 2013 from the readers of the Goodreads MM Romance Group.
Brita and her husband love to travel. They’ve taken no less than twenty-five cruises and countless long car trips, as well as completed a Civil War battlefield tour, and visits to many sites involved in the American Revolutionary War. Their 2013 anniversary tour of England, Scotland, and Wales gave Brita fodder for many new tales.
On a trip to Hollywood, California, Brita stood in the footprints of some of her favorite actors—Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, and many others, at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and has even kissed Mickey Rooney, God rest his precious soul.
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.
Starting April 29, 2014, Brita will host a Blog Talk Radio show for Writers Online Network, entitled And the Rest is History. She’ll interview authors, publishers, and readers of historical fiction. The co-founder of WON will interview Brita on April 29, and together they will introduce the show. Then, starting on the last Tuesday in May, at 2 pm Central time, Brita will take on hosting duties.
The list of guests is shaping up, including USA Today Best Selling author, Pamela Clare, scheduled for June 24. Watch Facebook and Twitter for all the details.
Monthly column at The Novel Approach