Nine Of The Most Commonly Misused Phrases: The Ones That Make Our Blood Boil

​From 'cliché' to 'adverse',we explore the words people commonly use incorrectly, time and time again

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If, like us, you're a lover of words, spend hours using synonyms in everyday conversation to vary your linguistic repertoire and are partial to the odd crossword, you'll agree there's nothing more frustrating than when people misuse the English language.

'Er, language is fluid', we hear you cry. 

Language, of course. Meaning and context, not so much. 

Here, at ELLE, words such as, 'literally', 'i.e', 'peruse' and 'travesty' are all currently filed in the category of words often used incorrectly.

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In Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker's book The Sense of Style, he highlights the plethora (meaning 'more than is needed', not 'a lot of something' FYI) of words and phrases commonly misused.

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Here are our nine favorite/bugbears:

Credible

This means believable, not credulous or gullible.

For example:

Zayn Malik's apology to fans who had bought tickets to see his show in Dubai was credible.

Not:

Viewers of The Hills who believed it was real-life are credulous.

Dichotomy

A dichotomy consists of two mutually exclusive alternatives. It does not mean a difference.

For example:

Nature and nurture is a dichotomy

Not:

There's a dichotomy between yellow roses and red roses.

Adverse

Means detrimental, not averse.

For example:

There were adverse weather conditions on the flight home.

Not:

I'm adverse to Justin Bieber.

Cliché

Cliché is a noun, not an adjective.

For example:

I loved using clichés in my university essays.

Not:

The Kardashians are so cliché.

Hone

This means to sharpen, not to surround or move in on.

For example:

Sorry, I can't come out tonight. I'm honing my knowledge of Gigi and Zayn's relationship history.

Not:

I am honing in on my Tinder skills.

Noisome

This means smelly, not noisy.

For example:

'Noisome odours are coming from the toilet'

Not:

'My colleague is incredibly noisome'.

Enormity

This means extreme evil, not 'very big'.

For example:

'Series 2 of Narcos depcits the true enormity of the crimes committed by Pablo Escobar'

Not:

'The enormity of the issue is overwhelming.'

Parameter

A variable, not a boundary or a limit.

For example:

'The color of my hair depends of several parameters.'

Not:

'I can only afford that new Zara coat depending on the parameters of my budget.'

Simplistic

This means naïve or overly simple, not pleasingly simple.

For example:

'The baking instructions were simplistic so I ended up burning my cake. My bad.'

Not:

'The calculation was simplistic.'

Saying this, we've just found out the Oxford English Dictionary has added the words 'YOLO,' 'moobs,' 'splendiferous' and 'fuhgeddaboudit' so we might just bury our heads under the sand right about...now.