Friday, December 12, 2014


Irregardless: This is not a word. This has never been a word. Regardless already means something isn’t worth regard, but that is also what this word claims to mean. Technically then, irregardless should mean something is not worth of disregard. And that makes no sense.

Friday, October 31, 2014



What you think it means: to feel sick or that one may vomit

What it actually means: to cause nausea

When you eat too much ice cream and then say, "Oh, I feel nauseous," you're not saying you feel sick, you are saying that you are causing people around you to feel sick.

The correct way to say you feel sick is to say, "I am nauseated."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


What You Think It Means: A fun fact of little consequence -- a bit of trivia

What It Actually Means: A fun fact that is not true! Yes, you have been using the word incorrectly all this time.

Monday, October 27, 2014


What you think it means: Very quick growth. You always hear of companies boasting about their "exponential growth."

What it actually means: An increase in the rate of growth. Something is growing exponentially when its rate of change can be described using an exponent, such as 103. So, yes, it does mean growth, but it doesn't mean quick growth, just quicker than before. So if you are experiencing incredibly slow growth, you can then have exponential growth but still be slow, depending on the rate of growth.

Monday, October 13, 2014


You probably think that the words infer and imply mean the same thing since most use the words interchangeably. Imply and infer are opposites, like a throw and a catch. To imply is to hint at something, but to infer is to make an educated guess. The speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring.

To imply is to suggest something indirectly. If you hand your friend a stack of napkins during dinner, you imply that she needs them. Things can imply, too, like a chimney that implies a fireplace. Check out these examples:

+ By their very definition, flea markets imply cheap prices for used and unwanted items, as is still the case in most other places. (New York Times)

+ Stern also implied the entire season might be at risk. (Seattle Times)

+ It isn't fair to imply that cardiovascular disease is going away. (Nature)

Infer is on the receiving end of imply, yet infer is often used to mean imply. To infer is to gather, deduce, or figure out.Writers tend to know how to use infer correctly:

+ He talks about having led in the private sector but voters have to infer too much about what that means. (Slate)

+ They were also better at inferring feelings from images of just the eyes. (Scientific American)

+ Yet it must not be inferred that farming women are without mental ability or common sense. (Sidney Lewis Gulick)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Dilemma: The word dilemma is commonly used to describe a difficult situation that requires a difficult decision. However, the word dilemma comes from the Greek meaning "double proposition." It simply means that there is a situation in which a choice must be made between two alternatives -- neither of which may be particularly desirable.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Travesty: A lot of people use this word interchangeably with "tragedy" or think it's applicable when describing a very unfortunate event. Actually, "travesty" means a mockery or a parody. That's why you often hear of a court case being a "travesty of justice" -- because it makes a mockery of justice and the law.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Literally: Some folks get very upset when this term is used in place of its antonym, figuratively. However, in a hyperbolic sense, that meaning is justified. Unfortunately, that sense is literally overused.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Notorious: This term is occasionally used correctly in a neutral sense but most people tend to think that it has negative connotations. However, the word "notorious" literally (and simply) means “known” and nothing more. However, its dominant connotation is that the individual is recognizable or known for illicit behavior or wrongdoing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Fortuitous: This word means “occurring by chance,” but its resemblance to fortune has given it an adopted sense of “lucky.”

For meticulous adherence to the traditional meaning, use fortuitous only in the sense indicated in this sentence: “His arrival at that moment was fortuitous, because her note had not specified the exact time of her departure.” Nothing in the context qualifies his arrival as fortunate; the sentence merely states that he arrived in time without knowing that he would do so.

The informal meaning is expressed here: “His fortuitous arrival at that very moment enabled him to intercept the incriminating letter.” In this sentence, the time of his appearance is identified as a lucky stroke.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Decimate: The word suggests an absolute slaughter, and saying you decimated someone is to say you defeated them absolutely and totally.

However, the literal meaning of this word, as all you lovers of Latin know all too well, is “to reduce by one-tenth,” supposedly from the punitive custom of selecting one out of ten captives by lot and killing those so selected as a show of force against enemies. Reducing by 10% isn't really decimating, is it?

Monday, June 30, 2014


Peruse: Some words lose their original meaning while others become so twisted that they end up meaning the opposite what they actually mean.

This victim of definition reversal, peruse, means "to use thoroughly," and its first sense is that of careful steady or attentive reading. However, since so many writers have employed it as a synonym for scan, its second sense is now "to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Disinterested: This word is most commonly used to mean that someone is not interested or has no energy for something, but it actually means “neutral and unbiased.” 

So, for example, having a jury that is disinterested in the trial is not a bad thing.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Fulsome: This term originally meant “abundant, generous, full” and it is still used in that form. However, the meaning of this word has changed to mean “excessive, effusive.”  A fulsome society was considered a good thing, but now it could suggest an excessive and corrupt one. However, some have argued that the word is enjoying a renaissance and should be used again in its positive sense. Decide what you will but be aware of the possibility for misinterpretation.