Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Say It Again, Sam

Last week, one of my younger daughter's colleagues pulled her aside for a whispered correction. "It's 'for all intents and purposes,' not 'for all intensive purposes.'" My girl was certain her coworker was mistaken and looked up the phrase. Humiliation followed. "I've been saying it wrong my whole life," she wailed at a recent family dinner.
Her sister frowned. "I say 'for all intensive purposes,' too. That's wrong?" The wailing at the table doubled, and the girls gave their father and me a look that said we could have saved them beaucoup embarrassment if only we'd paid more attention when they spoke.


We’ve all misunderstood, misspoken, and miswrote. Not long ago, a critique partner startled me by changing my, "If you thought I'd let you walk out that door, you've got another thing coming," to "…you've got another think coming." Drat. My CP was correct, and I fixed my mistake, but it stings to know I'd used that phrase wrong for decades.

Once in a while, a misspoken or miswritten phrase is more evocative than the original. A former student wrote that his family's plans changed because of a "monkey ranch." I struck "ranch" and substituted "wrench," but his original wording charmed me. Who wouldn't change plans to take in a traveling show of ridin' and ropin' monkeys?

A neighbor coined a word that may be greater than the sum of its parts. He was grappling with the loss of a job and a failed relationship and described himself as "flustrated." Would you have added to his woes by telling him the dictionary didn't recognize his mash-up of flustered and frustrated? Me, neither.

"I could care less," means I do care, if not a lot. "I couldn't care less," means I don't care at all.

Older daughter cares about words as much as she likes to razz her mama. The day after our family get-together, she sent this email:


What misspoken or miswritten phrases irk you the most?


Lark Howard said...

Love your story! I have too many pet peeves to even get started!!

My mother has never been a reader so she uses words and phrases the way they sound to her with no clue how they are spelled. All my life her "interpretations" have driven me crazy, but never more than when I took her on a 2 week trip to England. Day in, day out she was constantly looking for/going to get/rooting in her "pock-a-book."

I held my tongue for about 9 days then snidely asked, "How do you spell that, Mom?"

She looked at me as if I was crazy and replied, "Why would I want to spell pock-a-book?"

I explained the word was pocketbook.

She just frowned and told me, "You say it your way, I'll say it mine."

If my father hadn't had a Ph.D. in education and a propensity to correct every gramatical error I ever made, I'd never have escaped childhood with an acceptable grasp of the English language!

Kay Hudson said...

I definitely want to visit that Monkey Ranch, Pat. That's one I've never heard. Reminds me of all those song lyrics people mis-hear. My DH always heard "sucking on old Diane" for "Stuck in Old Lodi Again."

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
Pock-a-book sounds mighty familiar. I know I heard it while growing up in NJ. When I moved to Texas, I started saying "purse" because people here looked at me funny when I said pocketbook. Now I'm thinking they looked at me funny because I pronounced it "pock-a-book."

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Kay,
Why is it funny/touching when a person accidentally gives a song an R rating? How did your DH take it when you told him the real words?

Lark Howard said...

Here's a website that has a ton of misheard lyrics:

Rock groups in particular seem to ennunciate poorly.

aroseisarose said...

I'm still in shock over "all intents and purposes" and "you've got another think coming." What's worse--I write for a living! Though I'm fairly confident I've never written either of those phrases. Whew.