One confusing aspect of the English language is letters that sometimes sound alike (like D and T, for example). This can lead to misunderstanding what someone says to you. One of the ways where this is most prevalent is in popular phrases that are often misheard, then subsequently repeated with their erroneous pronunciations.

Here are a handful of phrases I’ve heard people mispronounce over the years:

Another thing coming

This one is supposed to be “another think coming”. It doesn’t sound right, and maybe that is why people hear it as “another thing coming”. The phrase is usually part of a larger phrase similar to: If you that is what you think, you have another think coming. In that context, “think” makes sense. That being said, ’thing” makes sense, too. “Another think coming” is by far rarer now than ’another thing coming’, and it’s probably too late to turn this thing around (pun intended).

Wet your appetite

This one is probably easily confused for a couple of reasons. First, most people probably don’t realize that there is a homonym for “wet”, so that’s the word they hear. Second, wetting your appetite seems to have connections to such phrases as mouth watering. In reality, the phrase should be “whet your appetite”. To whet something is to sharpen it. A whetstone is a stone for sharpening metal blades (such as knives or axes). So whetting your appetite is to sharpen it.

Peak my interest

This is another one of those occasions where people substitute an uncommon word for its common homonym. Like some of the other examples, this one sort of makes sense. Something that peaks is at its highest level. In this case, however, the phrase should be “piqué my interest”. “Piqué” means to excite or arouse, so the phrase doesn’t mean that your interest is at its highest level, but rather that it has been aroused from its flaccid slumber.

Waiting with baited breath

Okay. This one just doesn’t make any sense. To bait something is to set a trap for it using food or other lure. What you should use instead is “waiting with bated breath”. To bate something is to reduce its force or amount. It’s another way of saying that something took your breath away, which makes sense when you’re excitedly waiting in anticipation for something.

Nip it in the butt

Now, who hasn’t nipped someone in the butt (or had one’s own butt nipped) before? This misunderstanding makes quite a bit of sense as a standalone phrase. But in context, it seems out of place. Why would you need to nip something in the butt as a way to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate? The original phrase is “nip it in the bud”, and it’s a botanical phrase referring to nipping a plant bud off a plant before it can bloom (into a flower or a fruit, for example).

There you go. 5 examples of phrases most people get wrong. I’m sure there are many others like them. Let me know in the comments some of the ones you’ve heard people get wrong.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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