From ‘ultra-violent lights’ to ‘Farmer John cheese’: Embarrassed adults admit the words and phrases they’ve been saying WRONG their entire lives

  • People revealed words they’ve misunderstood all their lives in a thread on Reddit
  • One man believed ‘touché’ was just another way of saying ‘hello’
  • An Australian woman pronounced ‘lingerie’ as ‘linger-y’ until she turned 19
  • A girl raised in the southern US thought ‘big’ was short for ‘big ole’ until her 20s 
  • Another American spent her childhood saying ‘Parmesan’ as ‘Farmer John’
  • A British man thought ‘hyperbole’ was the name of a major US sporting event 

Hundreds of people have shared anecdotes describing the linguistic faux pas they have made or encountered over the years. 

A man who said he is still trying to convince his colleague that ‘specific’ should not be said as ‘Pacific’ is among those who admitted their embarrassing errors in a hilarious Reddit thread.

An American woman said she spent her early childhood pronouncing Parmesan cheese as ‘Farmer John’.

Words deriving from French caused the most confusion, with one grown man saying he used ‘touché’ – a word which acknowledges a clever point made by one person at another’s expense – as an alternative way of saying ‘hello’ until recently.

An Australian woman said she still cringes about pronouncing the word ‘lingerie’ as ‘linger-y’ until she was 19.

Another said her younger sister spent years telling their parents how much she wanted to visit Monaco to watch the ‘Grand Pricks’ – the Grand Prix, the annual Formula One racing event.

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Hundreds of people shared anecdotes describing the linguistic faux pas they have made or encountered over the years, including an American woman who she spent her early childhood pronouncing ‘Parmesan’ as ‘Farmer John’ cheese (stock image)

‘I made ‘double entendre’ ‘double ahnt-ten-dan-dre.’ Quite where those extra syllables came from, I don’t know,’ a woman said. 

One man was confused by the term ‘lactose intolerant’, a digestive condition which reduces the body’s ability to break down milk and dairy products, and pronounced it ‘lack toast and tolerant’.

‘I had no idea what the hell it had to do with dairy until I was corrected,’ he said.

His little brother once asked their father what was meant by the term ‘reptile dysfunction’ – a hilarious mishearing of ‘erectile dysfunction’.

A British man confessed to thinking the word ‘hyperbole’ – which refers to exaggerated statements or claims that should not be taken literally – was the name of a major American sporting event, similar to the Super Bowl, when he heard it first.

Another said his wife still pronounces ‘so many things wrong’, including ‘from the gecko’ (instead of ‘from the get go’), ‘right off the bag’ (rather than ‘right off the bat’) and ‘Bleshoo’ after someone sneezes, instead of the usual ‘Bless you’. 

A woman said she mispronounced the word ‘bequeathed’ – the act of leaving property to someone in your will – for longer than she cared to admit.

‘I always said it as ‘bequeefed’,’ she said.

One person had a family friend who was convinced ‘ultraviolet lights’ were actually ‘ultra violent lights’ well into adulthood.

A Canadian man who struggled with the concept of ‘silent’ letters pronounced the word ‘subtle’ with a strong ‘B’ until a colleague corrected him.

Another spent years telling people you should ‘never kick a gift horse in the mouth’.

The correct adage is to ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’, which comes from the practice of evaluating the age of a horse by examining its teeth and means you should never question the value of a gift. 

Commonly misspoken phrases

Scotch free – the correct expression is ‘Scot free’. A ‘Scot’ is an old English term for a tax. The modern phrase means you got off without paying anything or paying extra for something you should have.

You’ve got another thing coming – the correct phrase is actually ‘you’ve got another think coming’. The original expression is another way of saying, ‘if you think that, you’re wrong and you’ll have to reconsider’.

Slight of hand – the correct expression if ‘sleight of hand’. Sleight is another word for trickery or cunning.

Wet your appetite – this is an incorrect spelling of the phrase ‘whet your appetite’. The term ‘whet’ means to sharpen or define your interest in something, so ‘whetting’ your appetite indicates an increased desire for food.

Sneak peak – another misspelling, this time of the phrase ‘sneak peek’. A ‘peak’ is the top of a mountain while a ‘peek’ means a quick look. When someone offers you a ‘sneak peek’, they are giving you a chance to catch a glimpse of something.

Peaked my interest – an incorrect spelling of the phrase ‘piqued my interest’. The word ‘pique’ means to arouse, stimulate or excite.

To all intensive purposes – the original expression is actually ‘to all intents and purposes’, meaning to assess things by their outcome irrespective of other plans or goals.

Nip it in the butt – the correct phrase is ‘nip it in the bud’. When someone says they will ‘nip it in the bud’, they mean they are going to resolve a problem while it is still small and relatively inconsequential. It is rooted in the gardening practice of preventing a bud developing into a flower.

Escape goat – a mishearing of the expression ‘a scapegoat’, which is someone who is being unfairly punished for the wrongs of others.

One woman who grew up in South Carolina in the United States thought the word ‘big’ was a shortened version of the phrase ‘big ole’ – a southern slang term which describes something as being exceptionally large – until her late teens.

‘Raised in a southern family, I thought ‘big’ was short for ‘big ole’, so I thought that I was being smart by pronouncing the full word. Until the end of high school, everything was ‘big ole’ unless I was feeling lazy,’ she said.

‘I have no idea how anyone was able to stand it for as long as they did. It was ridiculous.’

An amused man replied, saying: ‘I really hope you wrote this on English essays. They probably didn’t correct you because it was hilarious.’ 

Another American said they spent years mistakenly saying ‘in this dang age’ instead of the phrase ‘in this day and age’. 

A woman said she grew up believing electrical cables were called ‘extension cords’ outside the house and ‘intension cords’ when they were used indoors.

‘I was very mad when I found out my parents had led me astray because they thought it was cute,’ she said.

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