News Advisor The common phrases everybody gets wrong

The common phrases everybody gets wrong

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“No one is the suppository of all wisdom.”

Those were the grave words of our Prime Minister, tweeted and retweeted so many times since he uttered them in 2013. Repository was surely meant, but went unsaid.

Mr Abbott’s garbled phrase had the ring of Kath and Kim about it.

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Enough with the suppositories of effluent. Photo: Getty

“Mum, I don’t want to be rich,” says Kim in an early episode of the TV series. “I want to be effluent!”

Liquid waste indeed. We all ooze these wonky words and phrases, though some more than others, a linguist told The New Daily.

Many of these sound almost the same, which is probably why we mix them up, La Trobe University’s Dr Tanya Serry said. Literacy rates in Australia continue to fall, potentially explaining these errors.

“It does seem to cluster in certain people,” Dr Serry said.

“Young children brought up in homes where there is not a lot of talking and reading never quite develop the same language competency.”

Despite the rise of computer software to check spelling and grammar, these errors frequently go uncorrected. US-based service Correctica claims to have found 254,000 of these kinds of errors on sites across the web, including such paragons of journalism as the Washington Post, The New York Times and the BBC.

How many do you get wrong?

Nip it in the butt

Nope. It’s bud.

Breach the subject

It’s broach.

Free reign

Nope, it’s rein. It refers to horses, not monarchs.

Hang in like a trooper

It’s trouper, referring to an acrobat who holds on for dear life.

Tow the party line

In fact, a politician toes the line. He or she does not conform to party policy by lugging it around. Derives from athletics, where an athlete puts their toe behind the starting line before a race.

Chomp at the bit

Champ is the correct verb, although it means the same. Refers to eagerness. Derives from horses which tend to chew on the bit (the part of the bridle which is in their mouth) when they are restless or eager.

Wrack your brain

Wrack means destruction. Rack means torture. Thinking very hard is torturous, but (hopefully) not destructive. Use rack.

Just desserts

The correct word is ‘deserts’, meaning that which one deserves. It is not skipping a more substantial dinner to eat cake and ice cream.

Wait with baited breath

No juicy worms on hooks here. The correct word is ‘bated’, meaning reduced.

Chester Drawers

There may once have been a gentleman or two known by this name. We hope his parents taught him to say ‘chest of drawers’ like a good boy.

For all intensive purposes

Your purposes may indeed be of the utmost intensity. But the correct phrase is ‘intents and purposes’.

I could care less

I’m sure you could. When in fact you ‘couldn’t care less’, let us know. Then we’ll be really impressed.

I have circumvented the globe

Did you really shun our planet entirely? Or did you simply circumnavigate it like a normal, terrestrial explorer?

They have made me their escape goat

Scapegoat! SCAPEGOAT!

It peaked my interest

Your curiosity may have reached its maximum level. Mine, on the other hand, has simply been piqued, or tickled.

Without further adieu

Please do stop saying goodbye. Now that you’re here, cut all the fuss, bother and ‘ado’.

Hunger pains

Your grumbling tummy does hurt, but it prefers the archaic ‘pang’. It makes it sound fancier.

I should of

No, you most certainly should not have.

Wreck havoc

You were so much trouble that you broke havoc itself? That’s very impressive. Are you sure you didn’t just wreak, or inflict, a little havoc?

I am at his beckon call

Beck and call. It’s both.

Mute point

The point has a voice, and it would like you to say ‘moot’ instead. It means the point is debatable, not that it has been silenced.

On tenderhooks

Hooks do not have feelings. But wet clothes can be hung on a tenterhook. If you were stretched out like damp cloth over a hook, you’d feel anxious too.


Don’t celebrate this. No one should be without a bottle of Scotland’s finest malt. You would, however, be very happy to get off scot-free without any penalty.

Chock it up to experience

No. Instead, write what you’ve learnt in chalk.

One foul swoop

Football players may swoop on a ball, and in the process commit a foul. But a swoop that is swift and sudden is ‘fell’.

Faze it out

By all means, act unfazed, but don’t phase it out.

Prostrate cancer

This terrible disease can leave you bed-ridden, but the body part is the prostate.

Deep-seeded misgivings

Misgivings are deeply-seated, not planted for harvest.

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