Tuning Up Your Idiomatic Expression Repertoire

Tuning up your idiomatic expression repertoire
Kelly Pile - Executive Vice President and Director of Operations Written by: Kelly PileExecutive Vice President and Director of Operations

I admit it. I’m a little particular about words. Some might even call me a grammar freak. Or worse. Although this trait comes in handy for proofreading website copy in the office (somehow the typos just JUMP off the page at me), I am not trying to be difficult. It’s just that hearing or reading the blatantly incorrect usage of the English language simply makes me uncomfortable. And irritable.

In my quest to make this world a better place, I have gathered a short list of well-known expressions that I often hear used slightly off the mark. Does anyone you know need this refresher?

"I'm waiting with bated breath" (not baited)

Bated means restrained. And if I am waiting with that kind of breath, I am holding it because I am very anxious during the waiting period. Baited means lured (think fishing) and I am not sure how anyone’s breath could be ensnared, or why anyone would want that to happen.

"Statute of limitations" (not statue)

A statute  is a written rule or law and is very official. A statue can have deep meaning, symbolizing or honoring some great person or ideal, but it is most definitely artwork and not text.

"Toe the line" (not tow)

It is easy to see how this could be confused with tow, as in towing vehicles, however the correct word is toe. Toe the line refers to meeting a standard. Some say this comes from old school roll call with kids lining up (with their toes to the line). Since toe and tow sound alike, I don’t care what you mean when you say it. Just please write it correctly.

"For all intents and purposes" (not intensive)

Intensive means concentrated, so intensive purposes would be some intense, focused purpose such as improving the world through rescuing little furry creatures or finding a cure for cancer. So while a purpose can most definitely be intense, I believe most of us are trying to qualify or deepen the importance of a statement (or more often, an opinion) by adding the phrase to imply “in every practical sense.” For example: My cluttered office, for all intents and purposes, is a storage room for unclaimed and miscellaneous items.

"Jibe with" (not jive)

I come across a lot of people who jive with something, and I know what they mean. They want me to know they are “cool” with it and there won’t be any resistance or backlash from their side. However, the phrase to indicate you are in agreement is actually jibe with. I know it sounds like you are saying jive incorrectly, but you aren’t. Trust me.

So what does all of this have to do with marketing your business, designing websites or branding your product? Probably nothing, but now I can rest knowing this grammar freak has done her part to help cure idiomatic expression imperfectionism.