Words are tricky, aren’t they? Definitions switch and swap, wiping away the dialectical traditions of yesterday with one foul sentence and a misplaced space. We scramble around for the right word, the flavour of the day, to describe our feelings and ideas, paying no attention to mere technicalities. Word definitions? Optional. Or, as the kids say, totes ops.

Words are fluid, there’s no denying their almost organic agency over us, waiting to be snatched up and jumbled together in what passes for an expression, a thought, guiding us through confusing conversations and morphing before our eyes into something else. Something whacked out. Weird.

To have some fun (who doesn’t love fun?), I’ve trawled the internet for frequently misused words for two reasons. One, because levity is fabulous. And two, there is no better way to punctuate the point that language is subject to daily butchery. Some may surprise you, some may delight you and others? Well, you’ll just shake your head. I did. Without further ado, here are seven incorrect words commonly used by everyone, including me (literally).

literally

Literally

Ah, literally. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (is there room for one more?), the wanton word “literally” may have popped up unexpectedly, replacing metaphorical giddiness and charging for dramatic effect. In the topsy, turvy world of Gen Whatever, literally has morphed into a violent, despicable monster, moonlighting as its own antonym. So let’s get this straight.

If you literally died, you wouldn’t be around to tell me about it.
If you literally threw up everywhere and fell into a series of Exorcist fits, I’d probably have to call the hospital. Or a priest.
If you literally can’t go another step for fear of your legs falling off, you have bigger problems. Legs should not fall off from walking.
If you’re literally too embarrassed to speak; good. The English language has already taken a beating with the induction of LOL to the dictionary.

If it didn’t actually happen, it’s not literal. It’s figurative. Sorry guys.

Incredible?

Incredible?

Incredible

You’re wonderful. I just wanted you to know that. I won’t further my mushiness by adding incredible to the list; after this, you might not like the iTag.
Think about how often we describe things as incredible, mingling its origins with words like wonderful, lovely, splendid, amazing and extraordinary. Makes you feel good, huh?  Incredible indicates somebody who isn’t reliable, a bit of a tool really, to be dismissed or disbelieved. Witnesses in perjuring the stand are incredible; Magpie supporters are incredible; SEO companies promising the world on a budget are completely incredible, but you? No, you’re absolutely magnificent.

aloof cat

Disinterested

Fed up? Disengaged? CBF’ed? I’ve got news for your cynical mega-watt brain. Disinterested doesn’t mean bored, not even close. The word doesn’t care about your tiresome internal tirades or constant eye-rolling, it ignores your clock watching and remains utterly blank, unperturbed by derisive posturing. Disinterested means to be impartial, completely removed from a situation and not in the least persuaded by an argument or any position at all. Disinterested is Switzerland.

irregardless

Irregardless

This is not a word. Really, it does not exist in any dictionary, from the misguided American Webster, to the upright British Oxford. Nowhere. No dice and you actually mean to say regardless. No, I’m not being a pain in the butt pedant; if you played irregardless on a Scrabble board, you would score exactly 0. Mention it in a meeting and you may be met with comically raised eyebrows. Along with alot and literally, irregardless is at the top of a list of English do’s and don’ts.

nuke

Enormity

Bigger is better right? And enormity sounds like it would make a mammoth impact on any sentence, validate your point and communicate the magnitude of what you’re facing. Oh, the enormity of it. Unfortunately, enormity refers to a reprehensible act, so immoral it LITERALLY steal the words right out of your mouth.

ie

I.E

I love e.g. and i.e. I used to sit there, stressing over essays and creative exegesis, paranoid I’d used the wrong one to demonstrate a particular point. I.E does not mean for example, it’s actually a shortened form of in other words!

decimate

Decimate

I am going to absolutely decimate my content orders this month; do you feel me? Perhaps you’re making plans to decimate a sushi lunch or a half dozen cocktails tomorrow night, as Friday relieves the pressures of the week? I would add a caveat of drinking responsibly, but since decimate actually refers to eradicating one in ten or ten percent, I think you’re safe. Decimate is rooted in a very brutal Roman history, where ranks of ten men were lined up and one was killed by his comrade or commander, maintaining power by fear in the ranks. English, so aggressive.

It’s a travesty the list is ending, hey? I hope you’ve enjoyed our quick walk down Linguistically Lane. Always remember, literally does not mean figuratively, figuratively does not mean literally and if you need a better word, there’s always the thesaurus!