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Master these Commonly Misused Phrases

English really is a queer language – it can be strange, jokey or puzzling. Some words and phrases are not taken literally. They have figurative meanings that add wit, and sometimes humor, to make communication more fun and interesting. Let’s look at eight of the most commonly misused phrases (which spell check often doesn’t find) and learn the proper way of saying them.

First-come, first-serve
First-come, first-served
“First-come, first-serve” suggests that the first person to arrive has to serve all who follow. The actual phrase should be “first-come, first-served,” since this indicates that the participants will be served in the order of which they arrived.

Sneak peak
Sneak peek
A “peak” is a mountain top while “peek” is a quick look. The correct expression is “sneak peek,” meaning a secret or exclusive look at something.

Hunger pains
Hunger pangs
Although hunger may indeed cause discomfort, there’s no such thing as a “hunger pain.” “Hunger pangs,” on the other hand, are the gnawing, severe muscle contractions that signal it’s time to eat.

It’s a doggy dog world
It’s a dog-eat-dog world
There’s no such thing as a “doggy-dog” world. The expression goes all the way back to 43 B.C. when Roman scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro, while comparing principles of humanity to that of animals, stated that even “a dog will not eat dog.” A “dog-eat-dog” world is therefore defined as a ruthless behavior to get what you want... so watch out!

Though “deep-seeded” might seem to make sense – indicating that something is planted deep in the ground – this is still not the correct expression. This should be “deep-seated” to indicate that something is firmly established.

For all intensive purposes
For all intents and purposes
You may feel very strongly and intense about your purpose, but that doesn’t make the phrase correct. Another common incorrect use of the phrase is switching the words “for” and “with.” The correct phrase means that you are covering all possibilities and circumstances.

A mute point
A moot point
“A moot point” may halt conversation, but it’s not as if you have nothing to say. Be careful not to confuse “moot” with “mute.” The first one means debatable or doubtful while the latter pertains to being incapable of speech. (Key Tip! A point is moot, a person is mute.)

Nip it in the butt
Nip it in the bud
“Nipping something in the bud” means that you’re putting an end to it before it has a chance to grow or start. Nipping something in the butt means you’re biting its behind.

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