Recently, I wrote an article titled 10 Words You’ve Probably Been Misusing that a very surprising number of you seemed to enjoy. Because you can only write so much in an Internet article before people get distracted, I had to limit the original piece to a mere ten words. Luckily, today is a new day, and this is a new post, so behold! Ten MORE words.
However, after reading a small chunk of the 600 comments on the last piece, I feel like I need to preface this sequel by saying a few things.
A) A more accurate title for this article might be “10 Words That May Not Mean What You Think They Mean” but I’m keeping the original title simply so that people realize it’s a follow-up to the original.
B) Many of these words have developed new definitions over time. I’m basing my arguments on the original definitions of the words, not the ones we’ve given them. Are denotative definitions more accurate than connotative ones? I don’t know. I’ll leave you guys to figure that out.
What you may think it means: a lot
What it actually means: superabundance, an excess
When you say, “I have a plethora of friends,” you are suggesting that you have too many friends, so many that you may not even be able to handle them all. On the other hand, when you say “I have a lot of friends,” you’re implying a manageable level of popularity. Learn this definition, people. Your social life depends on it.
What you may think it means: to bypass
What it actually means: to go before
This one is a matter of spelling. To forego does not mean “to opt out of” (as in, “I think I’ll forego eating dinner with your creepy neighbor”). Rather, it means “to precede in place or time” (as in, “I just watched Jaws for the first time and I’ve been watching Shark Week specials all day. For the foregoing reasons, I have decided not to swim with you at the beach today”). The word you’re looking for is forgo and it’s a variant of forego.
What you may think it means: capable of injecting venom
What it actually means: capable of causing death or illness if taken into the body
Certain snakes are venomous because they inject venom into your system directly. However, unless you ate or touched one of these snakes and got sick, they would not necessarily be considered poisonous. Moral of the story: don’t call anything poisonous unless you’ve tasted it first. (I’m totally kidding. Please don’t eat any snakes. Please.)
What you may think it means: actually
What it actually means: in a literal manner
I was going to leave this word out because you can probably find someone complaining about “literally” on any word-related message board on the Internet right now but many people suggested that I include it, so here we are. I’m not going to tell you to stop saying, “My mind has literally been blown,” because “literally” is my favorite word to misuse, especially when you say it like “li-tra-lee,” because it reminds me of British people, so carry on.