I find typos all the time—in articles, on signs, on TV news captions, and in business letters. I’ll admit it. I’m a spelling and grammar snob. As a kid I looked forward to diagramming sentences in English class—really—and thought spelling bees were terrific fun. Language and words are fascinating to me.
I’m not saying I’m perfect. I make typos, too. If it weren’t for my eagle-eye husband, you would see plenty more of them on my blog. But when I turned the page of my October issue of BRAVA and saw the major typo pictured above, I gasped out loud.
Here’s the problem. A king or queen reigns, but you rein in a horse. The headline should read, “Cancer survivor Michele Wilkinson turned a troubling diagnosis into an opportunity to take life by the reins.”
Now I happen to know that BRAVA recently lost its esteemed editor-in-chief, so the office was probably in a state of disarray, struggling to put this issue together without her. Still, it pains me to think that professionals in the publishing business don’t know the difference between reigns and reins. On the other hand, I doubt many people will notice. In the grand scheme of things, typos are pretty low on the list of things to worry about.
Mistakes are unavoidable. Even big, “What was I thinking?” mistakes. We all make them. When you make a mistake, the most important thing you can do is show yourself some compassion and not beat yourself up over it. As the saying goes: To err is human; to forgive, divine. This includes forgiving ourselves for our own mistakes, not just forgiving others for theirs.
After all, mistakes are sometimes the best catalysts for positive change. For example, if I had never dated men who were wrong for me (really, really wrong), I may never have recognized when I found the right one.
Some mistakes, however, are simple to avoid. Here are some phrases I see and hear misused all the time. Are you guilty of making these common mistakes in English?
- Nip it in the bud, not butt. To nip something in the bud means to stop a problem before it grows into an even bigger problem. Like the bud of a tree. Get it? Nipping something in the butt will only piss it off.
- Tip your hand vs. Tip your hat. I often hear people say, “Tip your hat” when they in mean, “Tip your hand.” To tip your hand is an allusion to card-playing, meaning you are letting your opponent see what you are planning to do. Tipping your hat to someone is a compliment. “I tip my hat to you, sir!”
- Coming down the pike, not pipe. Think of the sorts of things that flow through pipes. Would you want to look in there and see what’s coming? I didn’t think so. The correct word is “pike,” as in turnpike, meaning the highway.
- Flesh out the plan, not flush. Flushing out a plan would mean getting rid of it and starting over. If your meaning is that your plan needs further development, then your plan needs fleshing, not flushing. This phrase is based on the idea of adding flesh to a picture that only shows the bones of a creature.
- Take someone for granted, not granite. Yes, I have actually heard and seen “Take it for granite.” How does a person mistake another for a slab of rock mined from the earth? I am extremely perplexed by this one.
- I bawled my eyes out, not balled. To bawl means to cry loudly. Ball, when used as a verb, means to wad something up, or is vulgar slang for sexual intercourse. So, unless you literally fucked out your own eyes, you mean bawl.
- My curiosity was piqued, not peaked. This is an easy one to get wrong, because the word “peaked” seems to make sense. Your curiosity is going up, like a peak. The correct word, however, is piqued, which means stimulated.
- The point is moot, not mute. Moot is word we don’t use much anymore, which may be the source of confusion for some people. A moot point is an irrelevant question, or a matter of no importance. For example, it’s a moot point whether the chicken or the egg came first. Mute means silent or incapable of sound.
- Scapegoat, not escape goat. A scapegoat is a patsy, someone who is made to take the blame for something he or she didn’t do. When spoken aloud, it does sound a bit like “escape goat,” but even that explanation only goes so far. Think I’m making this up? Check out this headline from the New York Post.
I’m sure there are many, many more, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. What English mistakes drive you batty? Got any favorite typos to share? Did I make a typo in this post? Tell me about it in the comments!