There are so many words in the English language that it’s not surprising that the definitions for some of them have gotten mixed up over the years. It’s possible that you’ve gone your entire life without realizing your mistakes. I’m sure people have noticed. One day, you were probably walking down the street, casually chatting with an old friend, and one of these words slipped out of your mouth. Before you can move on to your story about how Mufasa would actually make a very attractive human, your friend stops to correct your error, and suddenly, your whole life starts to feel like one giant lie. How long have you been using that word incorrectly, you wonder? How many angry Facebook rants have you ruined with your improper grammar? While I can’t give you an answer to those questions, I can at least provide you with a list of other tricky words so that you may never have to suffer from this embarrassment ever again:
What you may think it means: a tragedy, an unfortunate event
What it actually means: a mockery; a parody
This one, I’ll admit, is my own personal error. For the longest time, I equated travesty with tragedy, mostly because in passing, they sound like the same word. It’s stupid, I know, but if you knew how many times I confused fetal position with beetle position, you wouldn’t be laughing. It’s a serious problem.
What you may think it means: a funny coincidence
What it actually means: contrary to what you might expect
It’s not ironic that you bumped into a talking turtle in a sweater vest right after you told your friend how cool it would be to bump into a talking turtle in a sweater vest. It’s a coincidence, and believe it or not, those two words are not related. Also, you should probably lay off the drugs because I’m pretty sure animals shouldn’t be talking.
What you may think it means: to skim or glance over something
What it actually means: to review something carefully/in-depth
How this definition got completely turned on its head, I’ll never know, but I’ll be sure never to say “I’m going to go peruse my math textbook” ever again, just in case someone overhears and tries to hold me to it under the real meaning.
What you may think it means: amused
What it actually means: confused
Again, with the whole “words sounding alike” issue. I’m starting to think I just need hearing aids. This is getting out of hand.
What you may think it means: to willingly do something, to feel like you need to do something
What it actually means: to be forced to do something (willingly or unwillingly)
The word you’re looking for is “impelled.” I agree, it doesn’t get enough attention.
What you may think it means: to feel sick
What it actually means: to cause nausea
When you eat too much ice cream and declare to your mom or the nearest adult, “I feel nauseous,” what you’re actually saying is that you are causing people around you to feel sick. Thanks, jerk. (For the record, “I’m nauseated” is the way to go.)
What you may think it means: to hold a conversation
What it actually means: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
This word is a mix of conversation and converse, and doesn’t actually exist, like unicorns or YOUR DREAMS. (I’m kidding. Unicorns are totally real.)
What you may think it means: repetitive
What it actually means: superfluous, able to be cut out
“Including this sentence is redundant because you already mentioned your love of Santa Claus in the previous paragraph.” This has always been my exposure to the word redundant, so it only makes sense that I would think repetitive was correct. I can’t be the only one? Right? RIGHT?
What you may think it means: enormousness
What it actually means: extreme evil
I don’t know where the “extreme evil” thing came from (probably the Devil) but enormity makes more sense as enormousness in my mind.
What you may think it means: awesome, fantastic
What it actually means: causing terror
Okay, so “causing terror” is more of an outdated definition but I still thought it was interesting. Maybe keep this fun fact in the back of your mind the next time you call your favorite camper, “Terrific Tommy,” because technically, a few decades ago, that might have been an insult. Unless instead of a camper, he’s a serial killer. In that case, go for it.
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