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?