Troublesome Turns of Phrase

I try not to be obnoxious about spelling or grammatical errors. Language is a minefield of troublesome turns of phrase and some are bound to blow up. Just the other day, I went to a place for lunch that sold ‘ceaser salad’, but I didn’t say anything. There’s just no way to correct it without seeming petty and annoying, (although blogging about it has probably cancelled out all of that restraint).  Anyway, typos happen, especially in this age of mobile device usage. I’m horrendous for making typos on my phone and not noticing / not bothering to correct them. Especially with Twitter, because you have to delete your post and start again due to the lack of edit function.

However, lately I’ve been consistently seeing a few phrases used incorrectly and I can’t hold back anymore. I’m putting on my obnoxious hat and we’re going to have a short grammar lesson, damnit.

Deep seated vs deep seeded

Example: Marie Antoinette’s obsession with her image probably stems from a deep-seeded/deep-seated need for her mother’s approval.

Which do you think is correct?

It’s deep-seated. “But Meghan,” you might be saying, “that can’t be right. Deep-seeded sounds like the characteristic is part of me, and that’s what I meant. It has to be deep-seeded.” I know, trust me, I do. But would all these web sources lie? Besides, if you plant seeds too deeply, they won’t grow. Seeds need to be in a shallow enough depth of soil for sunlight to reach them, or else they die. And you probably don’t want part of your personality to die (well, maybe, I guess it depends what characteristic we’re talking about here). Probably ‘deep-rooted’ would work better for that kind of implication. Deep-seated also has the connotation that the characteristic is stable and solid, like a strong, supportive chair. (I’m realizing that this phrase was probably invented before rolling chairs).

Photo credit: RLHyde via / CC BY-SA

Another thing coming vs another think coming

Example: If Hamlet actually believes I’m going to listen to him rant about Ophelia again, he’s got another thing/another think coming.

Which do you think is correct?

Okay, this one hurt me, because I was wrong too. It’s ‘another think’! Using ‘think’ instead of thing makes it clear that the person you’re talking about needs to change their way of thinking, or come up with a new notion of the subject at hand.  The original phrasing of ‘another think’ predates ‘another thing’ by about a hundred years, although the latter has since become more common. ‘Another thing’ really does convey the same thing, but with less precision. In another few decades, I suspect it will be the norm.

Who knows, maybe this will happen with seep-seeded too.

Free reign vs free rein

Example: The way that Caligula has given Incitatus free rein/free reign is absolutely ludicrous and brings shame to the dignity of Rome.

Which do you think is correct?

It’s ‘free rein’, and so I must apologize for my terrible pun, but I don’t really want to because I have a soft spot for awful puns. ‘Free reign’ is commonly used to describe someone who is independently doing their own thing, and it almost makes sense, because reigning implies a monarch who answers to no one. However, the phrase originates from  the equestrian term, where to give the horse ‘free rein’ means relinquishing control and letting the horse choose the speed. In my experience, a lot of the time this will mean snack time for the horse. It makes sense – would you rather run, or eat?

Couldn’t care less vs could care less

Example: Having secured Henry VIII’s affections, Anne Boleyn couldn’t care less/could care less about Cardinal Wolsey’s futile disapproval of her.

It’s ‘couldn’t care less.’ It’s a scathing way to tell someone that you do not have an iota of interest or investment in whatever the subject is. ‘Could care less’ shows that there is some level of caring, even if low, and therefore implies that you might be persuaded to greater levels of interest. It’s not nearly as harsh. And if you don’t believe me, I couldn’t care less, because this one is pretty much self-explanatory. Actually, I think the mix-up happens mostly because of a slurring of the words when spoken, not so much because the difference isn’t understood.

So there we have it, some troublesome turns of phrase investigated and corrected. Now just don’t get me started on the spelling mistake of definitely vs defiantly.

This goat knows the true meaning of defiance

Of course, don’t forget that most of these phrases are kind of cliché anyway.


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