Are you a suppository of information?

23:16, May 29 2014
ESCAPE GOAT: Could you care less about using proper phrases? Or do you think it's all "one in the same"?

English is a tricky language; we're all guilty of a little malapropism or mispronunciation from time to time. Generally, it results in a few laughs, and we move on.

But when you misuse common phrases, people may start questioning your education.

Take note of the following to enhance your reputation, or at least to avoid a snigger (or, if you're Tony Abbott, a public lampooning) when you talk about a "suppository of wisdom".

1) "Suppository of information"

Unless you mean to insert said information up your rectum, the phrase you're after is "repository of information".

2) "I could care less"


People say they could care less when, actually, they mean they "couldn't care less". The phrase originated in Britain, and made its way to the United States in the 1950s, where it was reduced to, "I could care less". It's argued the latter is said with sarcasm to have the same meaning as the former, but it's more likely said in error.

3) "One in the same"

If you think about it, "one in the same" doesn't make sense. The correct phrase, "one and the same", means that two things are the same.

4) "Should of done"

This is a quick-fire way to flaunt grammatical ignorance. "Should of" is never proper grammar. It's always, "should have", or "should've". The same applies with would have and could have. "Have" is a verb. "Of" is a preposition. They don't even sound the same. Ugh.

5) "Gotten"

In North America, "gotten" is the past participle of "get". It's not used in British English, so those using the phrase in New Zealand is either a) a foreigner or b) watching too many Hollywood movies.

6) "On tenderhooks"

What is a tenderhook? Tenterhooks, on the other hand, are little hooks used in medieval times for stretching cloth. It's got nothing to do with tenderising meat, although that could be a sweet play on words in a lover's letter. To be "on tenterhooks" means to be left hanging, or in a state of suspense.

7) "Baited breath"

Many of Shakespeare's phrases are often mangled. "Bated breath" from The Merchant of Venice is often misspelled as "baited breath" - perhaps most notoriously in JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While "baited" means furnished with bait... "Bated" is a contraction of "abated", meaning reduced, lessened. "Bated breath" refers to the instinctive holding of one's breath in suspenseful anxiety such as awe or terror.

8) "Irregardless"

"Irregardless" is such a common error it's even in the dictionary, which says it's probably a blend of "irrespective" and "regardless". Apparently it's used to mean without regard, which is what regardless means. To get it right, ditch the "ir".

9) "12 items or less"

Supermarkets no doubt sacrifice grammatical correctness in the quest for snappy signs, but that doesn't mean it's correct - it should be "fewer". The basic rule here is that you use "less" with mass nouns (such as time and money) and fewer with count nouns (such as people or things).

10) "Escape goat"

A "scapegoat" is one who is blamed or punished for the sins of others. An "escape goat" is probably the opposite - the one that got away.