I have been observing people’s language mistakes for a while, and realized that there is pattern of behavior when it comes to using the wrong words, or using words in the wrong context. Far be it for me to claim expertise in the English language, but I suppose it’s actually easy for non-native speakers like I to pick out others errors. This is because we learned English as a subject, were taught the grammar and were not allowed to stray outside the strict guidelines set in text books.
I have alluded to behaviors earlier. What I meant by that was, people use certain words in preference to others, just because they sound better or classy. They don’t realize that it is incorrect to use that word, or even if they do, they find it hard to use the right word because it may seem cheap or low-brow to use it. I will give you a couple of examples later. Another really annoying thing is with pronunciation, and this is particularly true with Indians, is they refuse to use the phonetic sound “wa”, and use the “va” sound instead, when saying things like wallet, apartment, Macquarie etc. I can tell, the only reason they do it is because they think it’s somehow posh to say it with “va” sound. Off all the English language mistakes my people make, this is the one I hate the most. Anyway, I digress. Let me give you a list of top five incorrectly used words or expressions that I have came across.
- Too good Vs very good. It’s almost common knowledge in the west that anything “too good” is actually a bad thing. It’s too good to be true, it’s too cheap to be real, it’s too easy to believe, and so on and so forth. However, I have heard many people use “too good” to express their appreciation of something. They need to stop immediately, and just say very good instead.
- You/Yourself, me/Myself. This one is interesting. I have seen many westerners use the “self” version incorrectly. You treat yourself to a movie. I will send you an email. I gave myself a scare. can you send me a photo of that cat? These are examples of the right way to use the “self” pronoun but I have seen and heard people use it as “I will send a note to them and copy yourself on it”. Plain wrong.
- Deprecate/Defecate. A very good friend of mine surprised me once when he said he likes self defecating jokes. Needless to say I fell off the chair, and made sure I was as far away from him as possible. Upon, further inquiry, I understood he meant, deprecate. So, it turns out, he could use this little anecdote when he wants to make a self deprecating joke the next time around.
- Climate/Weather. Some people use climate almost exclusively even when they are only talking about weather. The difference is quite stark as Climate implies the broader, more general description of temperatures, rainfall etc. in a given region, whereas weather is more localized and confined to a shorter time frame.
- Suck/Suckle. When a baby is being breast-fed, the baby is sucking milk, and the mother is suckling. Most people use suckle to describe what the babies do, because it somehow sounds like a better word. Suck sounds a bit crass, so may be it’s not the right word, some may think. However, suck is in fact the right word to describes the act of babies drinking milk from their mothers, while suckle describes what the mothers do during that process.
So, the above are what I remember prominently and I am sure there are tons more of such errors. I know for a fact that I make some horrendous mistakes sometimes, and I wish I had recorded those so I can rectify them. If you think of any mistakes similar to the ones mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment to let me know.