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A Guide to Misused Expressions

Considering the fact that I’m nearly blind as a bat, I assumed that my other senses would become heightened. That’s what the doctors say after all. Before my vision gave out, I could see and hear a cellphone a mile away on a beach filled with people. Really. It was like a superpower. However, once I reached the ripe old age of 15, both essential communication mechanisms ceased to work as they once did. Which is why I’m not surprised that over my 18 years, I’ve misused commonly known phrases an embarrassing number of times, some of which aren’t even that hard to grasp. I’ve been trying to convince myself that I must have heard them or read them wrong originally, so it can’t be entirely my fault but some of them are just too difficult to shift the blame away. Some of them aren’t even rational.

“Make ends meat” versus “Make ends meet”
I believed the prior option to be true for a good portion of my life. “Ends meat,” I reasoned, was a combination of “Bringing home the bread” and “Making a living,” just with a different food, which seemed to fit because meat is higher quality than bread. Think of the prehistoric ages when cavemen would bring home stacks of buffalo and deer (I imagine their hunting options to be similar to Oregon Trail’s, apparently) to help the family survive. Meat at the end of the day. See? It makes sense.

“For all intensive purposes” versus “For all intents and purposes”
I bet you didn’t know this one, either. Let’s take a closer look. Intensive: of, pertaining to, or characterized by intensity. Therefore, in my mind, you say “for all intensive purposes” because you’re encompassing all the intense purposes that could be applied to the situation. “We need to make sure you’re not crazy but, for all intensive purposes, you can babysit my kids until then.”  That may not have been the proper usage for either phrase, but it’s how I deluded myself into believing my error. Intensive purposes as in, if they are actually crazy.

“Beetle position” versus “Fetal position”
People talk fast. When the only thing separating one word from another is the beginning (“bee-tal” and “fee-tal”), it is remarkably easy to screw it up. I first heard this phrase while watching Without a Paddle with my family a few years ago. In the middle of the woods, Seth Green gets nearly mauled by a bear, during which time his friends are yelling “Abort the beetle position! Abort the beetle position!” Maybe it was because they were in the woods and there were bugs and therefore, the image of a beetle matched the setting but I have been using “Beetle position” ever since, without once questioning when I saw beetles actually do that in real life.

“Post dramatic stress” versus “Post traumatic stress”
From what I had seen and heard in movies, “post dramatic stress disorder” occured after a particularly horrifying experience like war or accidental murder. The events that caused it were always big, always scarring and definitely always dramatic. Watching your best friend explode from a land mine. Witnessing your father having an affair late at night. Seeing an older relative nude. Stealing from the cookie jar and getting caught will not get you “post dramatic stress” because it is not a big deal. “Dramatic” was an understandable error. Of course, “traumatic” also makes sense but my version wasn’t completely unheard of.

Dealbreaker (Good) versus Dealbreaker (Bad)
“Hey Ty, that guy you like can also sing really beautifully. He’s like your dream date.”
“He can sing? Dealbreaker!”
It seems almost impossible to screw up the meaning of this word seeing as its connotation can be derived from the word itself. (“Deal-breaker,” something that breaks a good deal, something that is bad. Simple, right?) Well, consider me Mrs. Impossible then because that conversation above is based on true events. My misunderstanding of this catch phrase is easy, though. I’ve watched too many episodes of “Deal or No Deal”, a game in which screaming Deal is considered a thrilling decision. Taking the deal means receiving money which, as far as I know, is a good thing. The additional “breaker”  has no significance in my mind so it floats in one ear and out the other, filtering our the useless parts and only leaving deal. Cute boy that can sing? Most definitely deal.

Maybe I am getting old. Maybe a white hair will emerge from my scalp at some point in the near future and give me an excuse for my Helen Keller senses. (Was that mean? I apologize.) I mean, there are surely other people out there searching for some sort of phrase handbook to explain the true versions of the ideas listed above. Maybe that’s what I’m here for after all, to help those who are as mentally confused as I am. I’ll gain followers, people will find relief in finding the proper definitions and in the fact that they are not alone, and I, too, will know I’m not the only one. We’ll all awkwardly age together, asking questions to be repeated multiple times and getting strangers to read menus for us over the counter at sandwich shops. We’ll bond over our inabilities. We’ll make lifelong friends.

Sounds like a dealbreaker to me.

by Tyler Vendetti

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