Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

Well Hello.

It’s been awhile, I know.  I have no excuse. No reason.  No explanation.

I’ve thought of you in that, I must get back to that, kind of way. And now, here I am. Back at it. So let’s get to it.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say  PART TWO

I am now continuing with words that are often used in error due to mistaken meanings through years of misuse by millions of people. Who knows if some of us start to properly use the English language it may just catch on and proper English usage may come back in vogue.

1. Terrific

What you think it means: Fantastic, good, wonderful.
What it really means: Horrific, to inspire fear, extreme.

This is one that I honestly expect will be changed in the dictionary sooner than people will use it correctly, because almost no one uses the real meaning anymore. When someone says something is terrific, they mean to say it is fantastic. A true example of something terrific is bomb exploding. You see a bomb go off and it inspires fear.

2. Effect

What you may think it means: To cause something to change.
What it really means: An event that causes a change.

There are those that will staunchly defend the wrong definition of this. But there is an easy way to remember, and solve any disputes: If it’s a noun, it’s an effect. If it’s a verb, it’s an affect.

3. Disinterested

What you think it means: Bored.
What it really means: Neutral.

To be bored is to be uninterested and if you’re uninterested, you’re bored. If you have no interest or don’t care about something you are disinterested and you are disinterested if you have no interest in or you don’t care about something. Simple.

4. Irregardless

What you think it means: Without regard.
What it really means: Nothing.

Just like conversate from my last post, irregardless isn’t actually a word. When people say irregardless, they actually mean to say regardless. Regardless means without regard. Irregardless has been used so often that it actually is in the dictionary now and that’s kind of sad. Even though it is technically there, there are a large number of people who don’t consider it a word, and they are correct. As stated before it literally means without regardless which is utter nonsenses and means nothing.

5. i.e.

What you think it means: For example.
What it really means: In other words.

This is one among a number of shortened words that confuse people. Here’s a quick guide on how to use them. Et cetera is etc., example is ex. or e.g., and in other words is i.e. When you use i.e. you’re letting the reader know you are going to give the same information in other words, in an effort to clarify a point. e.g. I love all bugs except those that fly and sting, i.e., bees and wasps.

6. Decimate

What you think it means: To destroy, slaughter or annihilate
What it really means: To destroy ten percent.

If you look in a Dictionary you would find that the definition is to kill one of every ten militarily or ten percent of something. A church Tithe is considered a decimate. One day I am sure the Dictionary will bend to popular usage and the Thesaurus synonyms of destroy, slaughter and annihilate will become the definition.

7. Fortuitous

What you think it means: Lucky.
What it really means: By chance.

There is a difference between luck and chance. Unfortunately, because people use the two interchangeably, its become difficult to explain the differences anymore. Lucky is an event that happens by chance that can be described as fortunate or timely. Winning the lottery is lucky. Fortuitous means simply by chance. It has no cause or apparent cause, it is unexpected, unplanned and accidental. Winning the lottery could not be fortuitous because you had to buy the ticket, therefore it was planned, had a cause and could be expected. Finding a paper bag full of money would be fortuitous.

8. Plethora

What you think it means: A lot of something.
What it really means: More than is needed.

This one is used incorrectly all the time. But it’s actually pretty simple. If you have more than you need of something than you have a plethora. Pretty simple. I need a dozen cupcakes, I have 14. I have a plethora of cupcakes. To make it even simpler it means: too many.

9. Literally

What you think it means: Figuratively.
What it really means: Actually.


When something is literally true, it is actually true.  People use literally along with exaggeration to demonstrate emotion: “I haven’t seen a movie in literally a million years.” This is meant to indicate that the person hasn’t seen a movie in a while. The word this person actually wants is figuratively. They figuratively haven’t seen a movie in a million years. They probably literally hadn’t seen a movie in a few months.

10. Can

What you think it means: What is permissible.
What it really means: What is possible.

When you can do something, you have capacity within you to perform that action regardless of whether or not you actually do it. When people use can incorrectly it is because they mean to use the word “may.” When you ask someone if they can open the door, you did not ask them to open the door. You asked them if they were capable of opening the door. If you wish for them to perform the task, you should ask if they will open the door. When you ask if you can have something, you’re not asking someone to give it to you. If you need something, ask if you may have it.

11. Defective

What you think it means: That something is broken or missing pieces.
What it really means: Simply that it’s broken.

You’ll see this one a lot in Amazon reviews. People will say that their unit came defective because it was missing a screw or pieces in the box. That’s actually incorrect. What they mean to say is that their product is deficient. It’s missing pieces, it is not actually broken. The machine may work perfectly fine once the missing pieces have been re-added, which means that it actually isn’t defective at all.

12. Obsolete

What you think it means: Old, out of date.
What it really means: Not produced, used, or needed.

You’ll see this one in the tech industry a lot. People in tech article comments will comment that a phone is obsolete when they really mean that it’s out of date. The literal definition of obsolete is an item that it isn’t produced, needed, or used anymore. An example of this is is the steam engine. It’s largely inefficient compared to today’s combustion engine and even more inefficient than the emerging electric engines. Thus, steam engines are not used, produced, or needed anymore.


Wrong meaning: A small fact.

Right meaning: A false fact.

The word “factoid” was first used by journalist, author and activist Norman Mailer in 1973 to talk about a fact that is not true. He wrote that factoids were “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper”—that is, stuff that the media just makes up.

Today the word is used to refer to a “bite-sized” fact, a small quick fact or something that is repeated by so many people that it’s eventually assumed to be true. The -oid in factoid is a suffix (word ending) that means “resembling” or “like,” so factoid really means “fact-like.”


Wrong meaning: The title of a book, TV show, etc.

Right meaning: Having, or believing that you have, the right to something.

When you buy a house, you’re entitled to it—you legally have the right to own the house. You can also be entitled to your opinion, since you have the right to speak your mind. Sometimes people can act entitled, if they act like they deserve special treatment.

A book, on the other hand, is never entitled, it’s just titled! People often misuse this word by saying, “The best movie in the world is entitled ‘Troll 2.’” This is not only untrue, it’s the incorrect usage of the word. Books, movies, TV shows and anything else that has a title are “titled.”


Wrong meaning: Something that will make you poisoned if you eat it, or if it bites you.

Right meaning: Something that will poison you, but only if you eat it.

People often think the words “poisonous” and “venomous” mean the same thing. And they do both deal with poison, a substance that will make you sick or even kill you. The difference is in the way the poison is administered:

  • Poisonous is used for anything that will poison you when you ingest it
  • Venomous is used for anything that will poison you if it bites you.

This is why murderers on TV shows use poison to kill their victims, they don’t use venom. Another example is the pufferfish, the Japanese delicacy, which is a poisonous fish—it can kill you if you eat it. A snake that can poison you, on the other hand, is venomous.


Wrong meaning: Something unfortunate.

Right meaning: Something that is the exact opposite of what you would expect.

“Ironic” is one word that no one seems to get right, even native speakers! There are a few different kinds of irony, but the kind people usually mean when they use the word ironic is “situational irony.” This is when something happens which is the opposite of what you’d expect. For example, you go on a diet and gain 20 pounds, or the fire station burns down. Irony can be funny, in a sad kind of way.

The infamous song “Isn’t It Ironic” by Alanis Morissette has some great examples of things that are unfortunate, but not actually ironic. For instance, rain on your wedding day is only ironic if you specifically chose that day because the forecast said it would be sunny.

Then again, maybe the joke is on us… it’s pretty ironic that a song about irony doesn’t actually have any.


Wrong meaning: Very famous.

Right meaning: Famous for a negative reason.

Speaking of infamous people and things, this word does not mean “very famous.” It actually refers to something or someone who is famous for all the wrong reasons.

Heroes are famous for their great deeds. Bank robbers, on the other hand, are infamous for their criminal deeds. Celebrities can be either, depending on how well they behave themselves (or don’t).


Wrong meaning: Not flammable.

Right meaning: Flammable.

This mistake is very common for a very good reason: It just makes sense! As we mentioned before, the prefix in- means “not,” so it would make sense for the word “inflammable” to mean “not flammable.” The problem, though, is that “inflammable” actually comes from the word “enflame.”

So what’s the difference between “flammable” and “inflammable”? Absolutely nothing. You can use either word to mean the exact same thing. As if that weren’t enough, you can also use “non-flammable.” English can be weird sometimes!


“We anticipate earnings will increase by $1 per share.”

No you don’t. To anticipate means to look ahead and prepare. So you can anticipate increased sales, but only if you are also making preparations to handle that increase in sales; for example, “We added staffing in anticipation of increased sales.”

If you’re estimating or wishful guessing, use estimate or expect instead.


This word gets tossed in to indicate frequency: “Invariably, Johnny misses deadlines,” is only correct if Johnny always, always, always misses deadlines, because invariably means in every case or occasion. Unless Johnny messes up each and every time, without fail, use frequently, or usually, or even almost always. And then think about his long-term employment status.


When you sign a waiver you give up the right to make a claim. When you waver you aren’t signing it yet because you’re hesitant.

So hey, feel free to waver to sign that waiver. Your instincts just might be correct.

In conclusion

The English language is a tricky one but it’s also ever changing. Words are updated and definitions change. New words are added every year and some are retired. Very few people will ever master the entire language and the rest of us will just have get along the best we can!


Thanks for holding my seat….

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