8 American Phrases That People Just Can’t Seem To Get Right

English is hard. It’s amazing how many people misuse famous American phrases without even realizing it. Myself included. These are the 8 common misused phrases and what their real meanings are.

1. One in the same vs. One and the same:

Flickr: Sheeren84 / Creative Commons

Flickr: Sheeren84 / Creative Commons

When you really sit down and think about it, or simply say both out loud, “one in the same” doesn’t mean anything at all. “One and the same” means that, well, two things are the same.

2. On accident vs. By accident:

Flickr: deccydoll / Creative Commons

Flickr: deccydoll / Creative Commons

This is one of the tougher ones and makes me really happy that English is my first language. You can do something on purpose but not on accident. The preposition that goes with accident is by, not on. “By accident” has the same meaning as the adverb accidentally or the prepositional phrase “by chance.”

3. For all intensive purposes vs. For all intents and purposes:

Flickr: arbyreed / Creative Commons

Flickr: arbyreed / Creative Commons

This one is my favorite. I love it when people say “for all intensive purposes.” It makes whatever the person is talking about seem so intense. In reality, the phrase is “for all intents and purposes.” You may feel very strongly about what you’re saying, but that doesn’t mean it’s grammatically correct. The correct use of the phrase means that you are covering all possibilities and circumstances.

4. Case and point vs. Case in point:

Flickr: jrparis / Creative Commons

Flickr: jrparis / Creative Commons

Case and point is not a real phrase, unless you’re a police officer is scanning an area for a suspect and spots him. A good way of determining the difference is this example: you are so messy. The files all over your desk are a case in point.

5. Toward vs. Towards:

Technically, there should be no “s” in toward, but in British English, you can use the two interchangeably. So if you’re headed towards London, you’re good, otherwise, head toward America. Good example: this scary fucking train coming toward you!

6. Hunger pains vs. Hunger pangs:

Flickr: lukaskr / Creative Commons

Flickr: lukaskr / Creative Commons

I honestly had no idea that the phrase was “hunger pangs,” but pangs refer to pains in the abdominal region that occurs during the early stages or hunger or fasting. They are correlated with contractions of the empty stomach. I am going to stick with “hunger pains” because it’s sort of just a faster way to say that you’re starving.

7. Card shark vs. Card sharp:

Flickr: jeffanddayna / Creative Commons

Flickr: jeffanddayna / Creative Commons

Both phrases exist, but describe different types of people. “Card sharp” describes a person that is good at shooting pool or playing cards and it implies that the person is also skilled at cheating in said games. Card shark is primarily only used in American English and is simply a term for someone who spends a lot of time playing cards. Both terms, however, can be used to described professional card players.

8. Jerry rig vs. Jury rig:

Flickr: jopoe / Creative Commons

Flickr: jopoe / Creative Commons

Now this was the most surprising to me. Not only is the phrase not “Jerry rig” (which I’ve been saying for years), but it’s also not the type of jury you might think of. Obviously, whatever way you’ve been saying it, you know what it means: making makeshift repairs r temporary contrivances with only materials that happen to be on hand. The term is originally nautical and dates back to the 1700s. On sailing ships, a jury rig is a replacement mast and yards (which holds the ship’s rigging) improvised in case of damage or loss of the original mast. Crazy.

What do you think?