Five expression you may be saying or writing incorrectly

blog home

We briefly wrote about these expressions on Facebook back in May, but since they’re so easy to muddle up, we thought they were worth taking a look at in more detail. Scroll down to make sure you’re aren’t accidentally implying that you want to bite someone on their bottom!

  1. “Lo and behold…”
    What does it mean? This little phrase is usually used to present a new situation or a seemingly surprising turn of events which, in retrospect, could have been predicted.

    Example: Tom went to parties instead of practising his spelling and, lo and behold, he wasn’t happy when results day rolled around.

    Don’t say/write:Low and behold…”. Although ‘lo’ and ‘low’ are pronounced the same; ‘lo’ is the word you need to be using. It is an exclamation used to draw attention to an event and derives from Old English.
  2. Nip it in the bud”
    What does it mean? If you nip something in the ‘bud’, it means you’re putting an end to it before it has the chance to grow out of hand and into a problem (or a metaphorical weed).

    Example: Tom wanted to go to parties instead of practise his spelling, but his mum nipped the idea in the bud.

    Don’t say/write: Make sure you aren’t nipping anything in the ‘butt’ – that means something quite different!
  3. “Scot-free”
    What does it mean? If you come out of a situation ‘scot-free’, it means that you come out of it without any punishment or injury. The word ‘scot’ is an old-fashioned word for ‘tax’ or ‘contribution’, so the phrase literally means getting away without paying what you owe.

    Example: Tim went to parties instead of practising his spelling, but he got off scot-free and somehow managed to pass with full marks.

    Don’t say/write: Make sure you aren’t saying or writing ‘scott-free’ or ‘scotch-free’!
  4. Give leeway”
    What does it mean? The word ‘leeway’ refers to a small amount of freedom in which someone is allowed to move or act. If someone is ‘given leeway’ it implies that they are given the space to try things out/find their way.

    Example: Tom had his priorities wrong; he was spending all his time partying instead of practising his spelling, but his Mum gave him leeway and didn’t punish him when he failed his test.

    Don’t say/write:Leadway’.
  5. “I couldn’t care less!”
    What does it mean? This phrase is used to express total indifference. The user is saying that there is no smaller amount that they could care about something than the non-existent amount they care now.

    Example: Tom couldn’t care less about his exams; he went to parties instead of practising is spelling.

    Don’t say/write: I could care less!” If the user says ‘could’ instead of ‘couldn’t’ here, they are actually saying that there is a smaller amount that they could care about something, thus implying that they must care at least a small amount now.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why now check out article on 20 Often-Mispronounced Words?


15 Aug 2014
blog home

"I ran the trial with a small group of students over three weeks before the summer holidays," she says. "I quickly saw the benefits, and signed up."

King's Leadership Academy, Warrington