5 Common Sayings You've Been Saying Wrong

United States

Ever have a pivotal moment when you realize your whole life has been a lie?

That moment happened for me when I was making plans with friends and I said “lets play it by year.” “By year? It’s ear” one of my friends said. After a 20 minute debate, Google searches, and Wikipedia findings, we established it is “play it by ear.” Then, I decided to look into what other idiomatic expressions and words I have been saying wrong.

We all use casual idioms in our every day life. Whether it’s saying our test was “a piece of cake,” describing the Nola weather forecast as “raining cats and dogs” to “piging out” at the city diner at 3 AM. We use idiomatic expressions so frequently, we barely take the time to really think about what we are saying, and it’s meaning: thus, we often mispronounce these sayings


We shove the yummy chicken, pita, and rice into our mouths so quickly that we don’t even think about what we actually ordered. The Greek word is actually pronounced “yee-ros.” Why “g” is the first letter is the question, but stuffing our faces is most certainly the answer. 


These fancy small cakes with two halves sandwiching a creamy filling are often confused with macaroons: light cookies with almonds and coconuts. Although they are both tasty, they are not pronounced the same.

I couldn't care less 

People mistakenly say I could care less instead of I couldn’t care less due to the fact that idioms often don’t contain logic. Through the common use, this idiom has been mistranslated. This classic mix up takes on a whole new meaning of what you are trying to say. For example, you gain the freshman 15 after your first year in college. I could care less indicates that, yes, you can indeed care less about this, While, I couldn’t care less indicates that you care so little because the fried chicken, jumbalaya, and biegnets are just too good. 


This one is often mispronounced as “excetra” which is strange because we more often use “etc.” for short. “Et cetera” is a Latin expression which means “and other things” or “and so on.” We often use this expression at the end of a sentence when the list of items gets too long or we just don’t know what else to say.

Nip it in the bud

You probably don’t even know what this means because we so often say “nip it in the butt.” This idiomatic expression means to stop something before it grows/gets worse just like a flower that’s stuck as a bud and cannot grow. How this got translated to butt is unclear, but my guess was in one of the first games of broken telephone.