28.8.13

5 Commonly Misused Words in the English Language


The more I write, the more I become a grammar Nazi. I'm realizing one of my biggest pet peeves are misused words. To the point where if I'm not sure of a word myself, I look it up in a dictionary to confirm I'm using it correctly in speech. Wow. What a nerd I am. It's a good thing my husband loves me…although I don't think he loves it when I correct his speech…

Anyways, I've started to compile a list of words that drive me crazy. Feel free to add your own in the comments! (And look forward to more posts on incorrectly used words.)


1. anxious vs. eager


She was anxious that something could go wrong during her pregnancy.

I am eager to see my wife after six months' separation.

Anxious: 1 experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome
• (of a period of time or situation) causing or characterized by worry or nervousness: there were some anxious moments.
2 wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease

Eager: (adjective) wanting to do or have something very much
• (of a person's expression or tone of voice) characterized by keen expectancy or interest

2. peak vs. pique


The novel piqued my interest so I bought it.

I climbed to the highest peak.

Peak: (noun) the pointed top of a mountain
• a mountain, esp. one with a pointed top
• a projecting pointed part or shape
• a point in a curve or on a graph, or a value of a physical quantity, higher than those around it
• the point of highest activity, quality, or achievement

Pique: (noun) a feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight, esp. to one's pride

Pique: (verb) 1 stimulate (interest or curiosity)
2 (be piqued) feel irritated or resentful

3. their/they're/there

What grammarian isn't annoyed by this all-too-common slip-up?

That is their sleeping bag.

They're coming over today.

I'm going over there tomorrow.

their: possessive pronoun

they're: contraction for "they are"

there: a place

4. irony vs. coincidence

This can be a difficult one.

How ironic that Sarah moved from Texas to New York to get away from Texans and ends up marrying a Texan cowboy.

Coincidentally, I met my husband in New York and we are both from the same, small Texan town.

The difference is that irony is deliberately the opposite of what is expected or planned for, while a coincidence is an often similar event that appears unrelated to another.

Irony: noun ( pl. ironies )
the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect
• a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result
• (also dramatic or tragic irony) a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

Coincidence: (noun) 1 a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection
2 correspondence in nature or in time of occurrence:

5. literally vs. figuratively

I literally ate five Double Stuf Oreos.

I figuratively could have eaten a whale.

Literally: (adverb) in a literal manner or sense; exactly
• informal used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true: I have received literally thousands of letters.** 

Figuratively: (adjective) 1 departing from a literal use of words; metaphorical
2 (of an artist or work of art) representing forms that are recognizably derived from life.



*Definitions from New Oxford American Dictionary
**The fact that this definition is now included in the dictionary drives me figuratively insane.


What misused words figuratively drive you insane?