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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