An idiom is a commonly used phrase that has meaning as a whole, rather than just being the sum of its words. We’ve all heard them before, but how often do we write them or see them written?
It’s not unusual to see these phrases misspelled in writing because people have only ever heard them.
10 common phrases that are often misspelled
Here are 10 of the most commonly misspelled English phrases and their correct uses so that you won’t keep making the same mistakes in your writing.
1. Piqued my interest
To pique means to excite. To peek means to look quickly, and to peak means to reach the top. Looking at those definitions side by side, it only makes sense that the phrase “piqued my interest” uses pique instead of either of its homophones. If something piques your interest, it excites you.
2. Complete 180
When people want to say that someone or something has changed completely, they sometimes say that it made a “complete 360.” However, this would mean that the person or thing has returned to its original position (because a circle is 360 degrees). The correct phrase is “complete 180,” meaning that someone ended up on the opposite side of a circle, which suggests that they changed completely.
3. For all intents and purposes
This is used to show the overall utility of what you’re saying. It is often miswritten as “for all intensive purposes,” which would merely suggest that what you’re saying is useful only for the most intense purposes.
4. Bated breath
If you’re waiting with bated breath, your “breath” is moderated or restrained — you’re waiting with great anticipation. If your breath is baited, however… honestly, I’m not sure what you’re doing, unless you’re fishing.
5. One and the same
As we can see from its redundant phrasing, this phrase means that two things are identical. People often mistakenly say “one in the same,” which is not redundant but otherwise makes no sense.
6. Dog eat dog
This phrase is often used when something is particularly brutal or to suggest that a situation is every man for himself. Though the oft-misheard “doggy dog” is an infinitely cuter image, it doesn’t nearly convey the message you’re intending.
7. Whet your appetite
Like pique, whet means to sharpen or stimulate. If something whets your appetite, it stimulates your desire for more. On the other hand, if something wets your appetite it… dumps water on it? What would that mean for your appetite? Like most of these mistaken phrases, this version is nonsensical.
8. Pore over
Similar to the pique/peek/peak debacle, this is merely a case of misused homophones. To pore means to study intently. To pour means to send (a liquid) flowing from one place to another. Knowing this, it makes sense to pore over a book or some study materials. Pour over should only be used for coffee.
9. Home in
To “home in” means to advance toward a goal and suggests that you’re getting closer. It is often heard as “hone in,” but this is incorrect. To hone means to fine-tune or sharpen, as you would a skill or a craft. In the context of closing in on a goal, it doesn’t really make sense.
10. Another think coming
This one was new to me in my research for this article. People generally say “another thing coming,” which does still make sense. However, this idiom comes from a larger phrase: “If that’s what you think, then you’ve got another think coming.” When you look at it this way, it makes sense to use think when your intent is that someone is about to rethink their earlier assertion.