Thursday, October 8, 2009

Do You Mean It?

8 Phrases That Don't Mean What You Think They Mean

1. I could care less
What you think it means: "I couldn't care less."
What it actually means: You actually do care.

2. It begs the question
Would you think it means: To ask or raise a question
What it actually means: To use an argument that assumes as proved the very thing one is trying to prove.

3. Let's table this
What you think it means: To discuss something later
What it actually means: This is tricky, because in the United States, it means what you think it does. But it means the exact opposite -- "let's discuss this right now" -- in most of the rest of the English-speaking world. Best not to be used in any international setting.

4. I did a 360
What you think it means: Completely changing your opinion.
What it actually means: Your opinion changed, but then changed back to your original opinion.

5. PIN number
What you think it means: A non-repetitive way to refer to your personal identification number
What it actually means: That you're being redundant. Especially when you use your PIN number at the ATM machine.

6. Lion's share
What you think it means: The greatest of multiple shares
What it actually means: You're not technically incorrect, because, over time this has become one of the phrase's definitions. But the phrase originally comes from an Aesop's Fable in which the lion took all -- not the largest -- of the shares. Because that's what lions tend to do.

7. The exception that proves the rule
What you think it means: Any counterexample to a rule proves the rule. For example, if you said you only date blondes, but somebody pointed out the time you dated a brunette, you might say that it is "the exception that proves the rule." This popular usage makes no sense at all.
What it actually means: The idiom actually does make sense -- but you have to think about it along the lines of the exception proves that a rule exists. For example," No parking on Saturdays" would mean that you can park in the spot any other day of the week.

8. I am nauseous.
What you think it means: I have a sick feeling in my stomach.
What it actually means: It depends. Prior to World War II, you'd have been clearly saying, "I make other people sick," and the correct term would have been "I am nauseated." However, over time, the usage has shifted to the point that many language experts have deemed "I am nauseous" as an acceptable explanation of your own queasiness. Just be careful using that term around the old folks' home.

The original article here.

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