You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it mean
June 24, 2016 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I want to avoid pissing people off with incorrect terminology. What are some common terminology that outsiders get wrong that really grind the gears of insiders?

EG: conflating clips with magazines or the UK with Britain with England.
posted by Mitheral to Education (170 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Flush out" the details instead of "flesh out" the details.
posted by Dragonness at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


Asterix instead of asterisk.
posted by Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Expresso.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


Q&A instead of QA for software testing
posted by zutalors! at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]




In graphic design, some (mostly old-school) folks are bothered by people who use "font" when they mean "typeface". (A typeface is a family of fonts such as bold, italic, condensed, etc.) But even famous typographer Tobias Frere-Jones says it's rare that you really need to differentiate.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Irregardless instead of regardless.
posted by Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the military, a gun is a large weapon such as what you see on a tank. If you refer to a rifle as a gun, they (historically, at least) would humiliate new recruits by having them loudly sing "This is my weapon, this is my gun" and point to their rifle when they got to weapon and point to their genitals when they got to gun. It is extremely important in combat situations when lives and national security are at stake to have clear communication, so they are really hard core about such details.
posted by Michele in California at 1:40 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


In proposal development, the contracting agency sends out a Request for Proposal (RFP). So many people refer to the proposal/response as the RFP, instead of just calling it the proposal or the response. Always drove my colleagues up the wall.
posted by mochapickle at 1:40 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't think the question is so much about eggcorns as it is about misusing terms of art, no?

as an economist, i get irritated with people misusing "inflation" to mean particular price increases as opposed to a general rise in the price level, although it's an understandable mistake and occasionally the result of particular schools of thought (i.e, the Austrians) just redefining the term to mean something different
posted by dismas at 1:41 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


So very inside baseball but " stock" footage when " archival" footage is wanted.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:43 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


Factoid throws me off sometimes, because its original definition is a made-up factlike (thus: fact with the -oid suffix) such as "We only use ten percent of our brains," but many people use it to mean a small or insignificant fact, like "Gene Simmons' real first name is Chaim."

I don't let people's word usage bother me much as long as I can figure out what they mean, but in that case, I can't usually figure it out.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Haphazard vs. random sampling. If you didn't do something specific to make sure it's random, it's almost certainly not random sampling.
posted by momus_window at 1:48 PM on June 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


Don't say "comprised of"
posted by radioamy at 1:50 PM on June 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


Saying "tattoo gun" instead of "tattoo machine" irritates many tattoo artists (and slightly myself who has tattoos.) Also calling them "tatts."

Similarly referring to "stretched ears" as "gauged" or "gauges" instead "tunnels" or "plugs" or "tapers" or whatever irritates many people - though I personally find the distinction petty.

Copywriting/marketing industry and schooling teaches people to use clear, powerful language so words like "utilize" are irritating and meaningless. (Oh my do I get annoyed when I see someone write they they "utilized" some technology or research a million times in an article.)
posted by Crystalinne at 1:50 PM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Do you know how to use the Terminal" instead of "do you know how to use Linux/Unix/command-line programs"...

"CPU" to mean computer...

"RAM" to mean "hard drive" or vice versa....
posted by miyabo at 1:53 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]




Deep-seated, not seeded.

Copyediting, proofreading, editing: all different things.
posted by kmennie at 1:54 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Begging the question.

The font/typeface thing mentioned above.

This is exceedingly minor, but my company uses time zone names (CST01, MST01, etc.) as names for our servers, corresponding to the locations of our clients. When discussing plans with a particular client, people will often use "CST" or "MST" or whatever to refer to the client's time zone, even if that time zone is currently observing Daylight Savings Time. The correct time zone, in those cases, is CDT or MDT.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


"it's in the DNA of [organization, or other institution or entity that does not contain any genetic information whatsoever]"
That phrase generally irks, but applied to non-biological systems it really brings flames, FLAMES! to the side of my geneticist's face.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Immigration law: If you call it a "green card" instead of a Lawful Permanent Resident card (they're not actually green anymore), or a "work card" instead of an Employment Authorization Document, that's fine, but your H-1B Approval Notice is not a "work card," even if it does authorize you to work. If you say "INS" instead of USCIS, you obviously haven't been paying attention. And if you refer to any person as "illegal," or even worse "an illegal," we know you're an asshole.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2016 [17 favorites]


yeah, the way i interpret this question, it is not just about general peeves about word usage, but specifically terms of art where common usage and technical usage are different.

in that case, "grammar" is one. in linguistics, "grammar" refers to the system of rules that make up a language--and can cover the sound system as well, e.g. "phonological grammar." spelling and punctuation aren't part of grammar, and rules like "don't use comprised of" aren't part of grammar, either.

another one might be the use of "slang" to describe a non-standard variety, e.g. "black slang."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:02 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


mute for moot, as in "it's a mute point."
posted by ubiquity at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read in a college newspaper about a student who was behaving like a pre-Madonna.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2016 [30 favorites]


"Quantum leap" to mean a large, sudden advance; in physics, a "quantum" is the smallest possible amount of a given quantity.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:04 PM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I read in a college newspaper about a student who was behaving like a pre-Madonna.

Ookla the Mok wrote a song titled "Pre-Madonna Prima Donna." It's about Cher.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:09 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


When I was an academic reference librarian, students would frequently ask me to help them find "scholarly journals" when they actually needed assistance locating articles from scholarly journals.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 2:09 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Interpreters work with spoken language, translators with the written form. FFS.
posted by runincircles at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


You can irritate a biologist by calling a Canada goose a Canadian goose, calling a garter snake a garden snake, calling every conifer a pine tree, using "specie" as the singular of "species," or using "species" when you mean "variety" or "breed."
posted by Redstart at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Kayaks are usually hard and made of plastic, rafts are big inflatable things that generally hold more than one person. If someone is in a kayak they're going kayaking, not rafting, even if it's on a whitewater river.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:12 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


A blog is an entire collection of blog posts. One article is not a "blog".
posted by amtho at 2:12 PM on June 24, 2016 [45 favorites]


"Logging on" to a website, when referring to simply accessing a page. If you're not providing a username and password, you're not "logging on" to anything.

I used to be a stickler for the formal definition of "oxymoron," but I have given up that fight. OK, it's now synonymous with "contradiction in terms." Sigh.

Oh, and nthing "beg the question," above.
posted by dono at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Fazed out instead of phased out.
posted by readery at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Quantum leap" to mean a large, sudden advance; in physics, a "quantum" is the smallest possible amount of a given quantity.

To me, this goes with the use of "sea change" to describe any alteration in current circumstances whatsoever.
posted by thelonius at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2016


palate/pallet
affective/effective
posted by Namlit at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2016


I could stand at the put-in for a river with my eyes closed and listen to the crowd and tell you who was a customer and who was a river guide/river rat based on who said "life preserver" and who said "PFD" (i.e. personal flotation device). River runners don't call them "life preservers" anymore, partially because a lot of us know someone who drowned while wearing one.
posted by colfax at 2:22 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Possibly a tad pedantic, but... calling interpreters translators. Translators work on written text, interpreters are for speech. They're rather different skillsets.
posted by Tamanna at 2:28 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


... and runincircles beat me to it. Clearly I'm not the only one this annoys the crap out of.
posted by Tamanna at 2:29 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Referring to a symphony/concerto/sonata/etc as a song.
posted by sleepingcbw at 2:34 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Masonary.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:35 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Realetter

it's realtor. Two syllables, not three.
posted by janey47 at 2:38 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Theory vs. Hypothesis in science. Lay people hear about scientific theories and think it just means "some idea some guy in a white coat standing at a chalkboard pulled out of his ass and wrote down " uh. No.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:45 PM on June 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


Also lightyears are a measure of distance. Not time.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:47 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh so many!

As an insider, I hate hearing people talk about "squashing" a subpoena. Er no, that would be "quashing." It also drives me nuts to hear people "pleaded innocent." No, they plead "not guilty." Criminal cases don't establish if people are innocent or not . . . rather, they are presumed innocent and the question determined is whether the government can overcome that presumption and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Acquittal means the government didn't get that job done.

On the general usage front, I find my teeth grinding when people refer to "laying down," which is something done to an object like a card on a table, not what people do themselves with their bodies when they lie down. Nor do I like it when I hear someone was "kicked out" when they were simply escorted out or told to leave. I'm also tired of hearing that people who responded with contradiction were "lashing out." I'm not even going to get going on the insane common misuse of simple prepositions such as "in" and "of" and "to" in daily speech.
posted by bearwife at 2:50 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Using "empathetic" when "empathic" is what is meant. I realize the former is actually in the dictionary, but it's sort of like "nukular" instead of "nuclear" (Thanks, G. W. Bush!).
posted by DrGail at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Strains" of Cannabis - strain is not used in horticulture; it's varietal or cultivar, but I guess it's industry standard to talk about 'strains.'

Seconding the inappropriate use of 'utilize.'
posted by porpoise at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Paramedics and EMTs are not the same thing. Paramedics have more training than EMTs and can perform a wider set of tasks, including administering medication and advanced cardiac care. EMTs are talented in their own right and are a vital part of emergency medicine, but calling a paramedic an EMT disregards the extensive amount of work they did to acquire that designation. Though uniforms and badges typically clearly display whether an EMS worker is a medic or EMT, feel free to err on the "paramedic" side of things when talking about an EMS professional. EMTs won't be offended if you think they're medics but it's deflating for medics to constantly go unrecognized for their specialization.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:59 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


People who say, "I'm a little OCD" or "My husband is so ADD" or "My grandmother is such a hoarder." Executive function disorders, brain disorders, and neurobehavioral disorders are not to be joked about and borrowed, any more than the cultural appropriation we MeFites find so distasteful. My clients struggle with the mental health issues surrounding cognitive and neurological disorders, and misusing or misappropriating these terms is dismissive and insulting.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:00 PM on June 24, 2016 [25 favorites]


"Ambulance drivers" for EMS personnel.

I've talked about this previously here: "the general line of thought is that if you wouldn't call a police officer a "police car driver", because obviously they are trained to do more than drive a police car, then you should probably stick with "EMT" or "paramedic", because we are similarly trained to perform functions other than driving an ambulance".

"EMTs" for a crew made up of an EMT and a paramedic, or two paramedics. It's similar to a hypothetical person calling a mixed group of doctors and nurses "the nurse team".

The phrase "rushed to the hospital in an ambulance" is a good indicator that someone has no real familiarity with what we actually do. There may be a degree of haste, depending how sick someone is, but there's more to it than a speedy ride.

On preview: Yes! Mona gets it! Said much more accurately, too. Thank you!
posted by skyl1n3 at 3:04 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


One I've run across a lot recently: "actionable," a legal term meaning "serving as the cause for a lawsuit," being used in nonlegal contexts to mean something like "feasible" or "able to be put into effect." ("We came away from the conference with an actionable agenda." Ugh.)

The distinction between "We can totally do this!" and "We will totally get sued for this!" seems like a useful one to preserve.
posted by miles per flower at 3:13 PM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


"Inherent" is properly pronounced like its sisters, adherent and coherent, not like "inherit."
posted by tenderly at 3:16 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


No longer my particular field, though I did used to sell furniture once upon a time:

"Draw" for drawers, and its cousin "Chester draw" for chest of drawers.
posted by Sara C. at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


When I was an academic reference librarian, students would frequently ask me to help them find "scholarly journals" when they actually needed assistance locating articles from scholarly journals.

Oh, so this. Or they'll say they need "references" or "reference books" when they really just need any kind of sources.
posted by jabes at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2016


"Novel" as a catch-all for anything written in prose. Orange is the New Black is not a novel. Nor is a biography of Alexander Hamilton. Nor is a nonfiction essay on being stung by insects. Nor is... You get the picture.

Let's not even discuss the guy who once tried to pick me up by namedropping "Lord Byron, the Victorian novelist."
posted by thomas j wise at 3:26 PM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Frequently -- but thankfully not always -- when people say one of these, they mean the other:

Lanes --> Motor vehicle lanes
Traffic --> Motor vehicle traffic
Road Closed --> Road Open! To people! (Just not large, heavy, and dangerous machines)
Dead end --> Through route for people! (Just not people who bring large, heavy, and dangerous machines)
Parking --> Car parking
Parking lot --> Car park or motor vehicle parking lot
(Garage --> Bedroom for cars)

I have trained myself to disambiguate and every time someone says a word from the first column it takes myself a few seconds to understand what they're trying to say.
posted by aniola at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's a motor vehicle collision. It was preventable, so it was a collision. Or a crash.
posted by aniola at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I work in digital marketing at a place where most of my coworkers are, shall we say, less than savvy when it comes to the internet/social media.

Honestly, I'm less bothered by nomenclature misuse than I am by the people who have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the internet or social media works, but still get mad when I do my job in a way that doesn't support their head canon for how the internet works.

Like, I'd listen to someone talk about "uploading Tweets to the web server" or "hashbacks" all damn day if at least it seemed like they understood approximately how social media, hashtags, @mentions, and the internet actually functioned.

As opposed to the people who, for example, think that just because something is posted on Facebook, I am automatically attuned to its existence and "should have known" to share it, despite the post in question not tagging or mentioning us directly in any way.

Or the people who think that I am somehow able to upload Tweets to someone else's website. Not their Twitter account; their website.

Or the people who click through on a hashtag, see the other things that have been posted with that hashtag, see that one of the posts is less than savory, and freak out and think that we are in for a SCANDAL because SOMEONE ELSE used the SAME HASHTAG AS US on a NAUGHTY POST.

So I guess my industry-specific advice is less about not misusing specific words and more about being careful not to assume that, given the two options, it's more likely that the person whose whole job is online marketing is doing it ALL WRONG than it is that maybe you don't quite understand how the internet works.

Which I think is probably pretty sound advice across a variety of job sectors, tbh.
posted by helloimjennsco at 3:30 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Referring to anyone who works in a kitchen as a 'Chef'.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 3:34 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Quantum leap" to mean a large, sudden advance; in physics, a "quantum" is the smallest possible amount of a given quantity.

I'm pretty sure this usage is intended to suggest an advance that skips over intermediary stages that might be putatively expected, as in a quantum leap from one orbital shell to the next. That is, going from one place to somewhere else with nothing in between. Quantum mechanics defies conventional expectations, and so does a "quantum leap."
posted by stopgap at 3:38 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


Jugglers juggle clubs, not "pins" (and definitely not "bowling pins").
posted by mbrubeck at 3:51 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"actionable," a legal term meaning "serving as the cause for a lawsuit," being used in nonlegal contexts to mean something like "feasible" or "able to be put into effect."

You might even say that people are using it to mean they are able to take action on it.
posted by kindall at 3:52 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


People (often journalists) who see the word "significant" in a research context and assume that it means "big", rather than "statistically significant" (but possibly very small indeed).
posted by embrangled at 4:00 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm a microbiologist and I did my Phd in a bacterial toxin lab. It drives me crazy when people use the word toxin in a "woo" sense- like a juice diet or skin treatment to get rid of "toxins". Grrrrrr!
posted by emd3737 at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


Referring to the "/" in a URL as backslash. It's a forward slash, or just plain slash. "\" is a backslash.
posted by jkent at 4:14 PM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


yeah, the way i interpret this question, it is not just about general peeves about word usage, but specifically terms of art where common usage and technical usage are different.

In common usage, a "run-on" sentence is any long sentence, especially if the writer self-deprecatingly considers it to be too long. Most sentences that I see called run-on sentences in this context are actually just long sentences with lots of coordinated or subordinated phrases and clauses. In technical English-teacher-type language, a run-on is two or more independent clauses with no punctuation or conjunctions, something like, "I was at the movie it was good." A comma splice is two or more independent clauses separated by a comma, like, "I was at the movie, it was good," but this is often also called a run-on.

This isn't a thing that makes me angry, it's just a difference between colloquial use and technical use. I try not to ever correct anyone unless they've asked for feedback and suggestions.
posted by not that girl at 4:21 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


> mute for moot, as in "it's a mute point."

chord/cord, as in "your comment struck a cord with me," or "I tripped over the power chord and broke my laptop"
posted by Gev at 4:35 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Confusing "terminology," which refers to word usage in specialized fields, with general word usage. In other words, at least half of this thread.

Also "Jesus freak" is a historical term referring to a specific type of Christian in the 1960s and 1970s and coming from the counterculture of that era. Current fundamentalist Christianity is a completely different thing (though some of these people came out of that movement).
posted by FencingGal at 4:43 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Using "nonplussed" to mean "unfazed" when it means exactly the opposite.
posted by dfan at 4:46 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Intellectual property:

Copyright instead of patent or trademark.
Patent instead of copyright or trademark.
Trademark instead of copyright or patent.
Use of "trademark" as a verb.
posted by anathema at 4:48 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Rod iron" for "wrought iron."
posted by jgirl at 4:51 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just found out that I had been misusing one for months: "to put [a person] on blast" means to yell at that person. (I had thought it was an expression of approval, evoking turning up a stereo for a song you like.)
Of course, to "holla" at someone is merely to contact them in a friendly way.
A "whip" is an expensive car, but is almost always used ironically, for a shitty car.
The "cake" is the current object of desire, e.g. money or romance. (No one seems to have told these young people that the cake is a lie.)
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:52 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Irony/ironic.

One of the VP's at my dad's former place of employment insisted it was a "moo point", yes like a cow!
posted by jrobin276 at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're working as an archaeologist, you're NOT digging for fossils, and you don't care about dinosaurs necessarily. (And you're not looking for gold either. It was funny the first time, but you're not the first to say it, promise.)
posted by gemmy at 5:48 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


It drives me crazy when people use the word toxin in a "woo" sense- like a juice diet or skin treatment to get rid of "toxins". Grrrrrr!

A MeFite whose name I can't remember suggested mentally substituting "evil spirits" for "toxins" in those contexts.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:49 PM on June 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


using the term "in shock" (which is a medical term describing blood pressure that is getting so low as to present a risk to the body) to mean "stunned."
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Fair Use" when what they really mean "this seems fair" (for them).
posted by BillMcMurdo at 6:06 PM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Baseball:

A foul tip is a ball which the batter makes contact with, but goes sharp and direct to the catcher's mitt and is caught. It's just a live ball strike. The ball which is just nicked and goes back to the screen is a foul ball, every single baseball announcer be damned.

Interference is when the offense hinders the defense; obstruction is when the defense hinders the offense. Any number of coaches have illuminated their lack of understanding by mixing them up and asking why I didn't penalize their own team.
posted by stevis23 at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2016


It drives me CRAZY when people say "guesstimate".
posted by shesbenevolent at 6:20 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


The distinction between asylum seekers and refugees

Also, referring to a single country in the plural pronoun rather than the singular. There is only one country in the world called, for example, The United States of America. The correct pronoun is "it" and not "they."
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 6:22 PM on June 24, 2016


"Haphazard vs. random sampling. If you didn't do something specific to make sure it's random, it's almost certainly not random sampling."

"People (often journalists) who see the word "significant" in a research context and assume that it means "big", rather than "statistically significant" (but possibly very small indeed)."
Similarly: "statistically valid" vs "statistically significant".
posted by Pinback at 6:23 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a sociologist, it bugs me when people use the word "norm" (which in my field means expectations that guide behavior) to mean "normal" in the colloquial sense of conforming to a standard. Also, seconding the confusion between haphazard and random mentioned above.

I am also continually bothered by the misuse (or misunderstanding, I'm not always sure which is behind it) of the word rate, which is a measure of one thing against another -- it's not a measure of a thing itself. For example, the divorce rate (as it is commonly used in the media) is a measure of the number of divorces against the number of marriages in a given year (properly, this would be called the divorce to marriage ratio). It is NOT a measure of the likelihood that a given marriage will end in divorce, and it definitely does NOT mean that "X% of all marriages end in divorce." If you think about it for even 5 seconds you'll realize that you would have to wait until everyone on the planet (or at least all but one) died to calculate the latter.

It also bugs me when people use drug addiction to mean drug use (this is commonly done in discussions of youth drug use).
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:27 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I once had a very confusing and amusing conversation with a client who was using the term "IP Address" when he should have been saying "Web Browser".

Him: "The website isn't working"
Me: "Oh, what do you see?"
Him: [...lots of details...]
Me: "That's odd, it works when I try those same steps."
Him: "What IP address are you using? Maybe it's different."
Me: "Umm... huh, what, yeah we probably aren't on the same IP address."

[... lots of back and forth...]

Me: (finally) "What IP address are YOU using?"
Him: "FireFox"
Me: !?@#$?#
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:41 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Grantsmanship - Akin to to confusing RFP and proposal, people say they are going to "write a grant" when what they mean is that they are going to write an application for a grant or apply for a grant.

Cost vs price vs value vs worth- Cost is what it takes to produce the widget which is then offered at a price to a customer with an idea of its value at that moment and its worth in the long run. My price thus becomes your cost.

Estimate vs predict - Estimates use data to guess a parameter within a known data set, while predictions use data to guess a random variable outside of the data set.

Budget vs forecast vs projection - A budget is a statement of intent, given agreed upon targets (e.g., increase sales by X), whereas a forecast sets forth assumptions (expectations about future conditions) and the course of action to take under those circumstances. A projection differs from a forecast in that its assumptions are explicitly hypothetical, e.g., what would happen if x occurred.

Fiscal impact vs economic impact - Fiscal impacts encompass the costs and revenues (measured in dollars or whatever currency) accruing to one or more units of government as a result of a policy or program, whereas economic impacts accrue to the economy of interest based on how its industries interact and are measured in direct, indirect and induced jobs, wages and changes to final demand. Here government is just another industry. Related: cost/benefit analysis, which is tailored to the specific desired outcome and may include both qualitative and quantitative measures.
posted by carmicha at 6:44 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Another one regarding firearms: "semi-automatic" is not the same as "automatic" (AKA "fully automatic").

"automatic" is what most people would call a machine gun. It fires rapidly and continuously as long as the trigger is down. Fire rates can be amazing; one version of the M2 BMG (.50 caliber Browning Machine Gun) can fire 1200 rounds per minute, though you cannot keep that up for very long because the barrel will overheat. The Thompson SMG usually fires about 600 rpm.

Automatic weapons are heavily regulated and Americans cannot own them without getting all kinds of permits from BATF.

"semi-automatic" means "one trigger pull, one round shot". These are very common; virtually every pistol sold, including most revolvers, count as semi-auto.

"Single action" means the trigger fires the weapon and that's all. A single action revolver requires you to cock the hammer before pulling the trigger. "Double action" means pulling the trigger cocks the hammer and then fires it. A double-action revolver counts as semi-auto.

I doubt anyone makes a single-action revolver now that isn't a replica of a traditional single-action gun (like the Colt Peacemaker).

All auto-loader pistols (i.e. Glock etc.) are semi-auto. You have to cock the weapon initially (by pulling the slide) but each trigger pull fires a single round, and makes the slide reload (hence the name "auto-loader", the official nomenclature for this category of pistol).

A bolt-action rifle counts a single-action. A slide-action shotgun is single-action.

The AR-15 is a civilian version of the M-16 military rifle. The M-16 has a full auto mode, and a triple-burst mode (one trigger pull fires three rounds in quick succession). In full auto mode it can fire 700-950 rpm, though since it's firing from a magazine it obviously can't do that for very long.

The AR-15 is semi-auto only.

It's possible to shoot quite rapidly with a semi-auto weapon, up to a couple rounds per second if your finger is twitchy, but usually they aren't used that way because it's difficult to keep the weapon aimed. You can figure a maximum reasonable fire rate of 80 or 90 rpm but 40-50 or much less is a lot more typical, and of course it has to stop when the magazine is exhausted.

Every time I see some gun-grabber refer to the AR-15 as "automatic" I grind my teeth. Some don't know any better -- but many of them are lying about this on purpose.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


Radiation. You don't get radiation on you*, you get contamination on you. "Radiation leak" is almost always wrong, it's a radioactive material spill. It's clear what people mean, but goddamn, so irritating. Worse than nucyoolar.
posted by ctmf at 7:14 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Calling dragonboat and outrigger canoe "rowing", when they are paddling sports.
posted by invokeuse at 7:17 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Grammar when you mean mechanics. Different beasts.
posted by Peach at 7:39 PM on June 24, 2016


After volunteering for years at the SPCA I started to understand the frustration that stems from people referring to a certain breed of dog as a pit bull. Pit bull is not a breed, it's what we tend to call dogs that have a similar body shape. More info here.
posted by eisforcool at 7:50 PM on June 24, 2016


Vulva and vagina are not interchangeable terms.
posted by eisforcool at 7:55 PM on June 24, 2016 [23 favorites]


Though there can be some overlap, "explanation" and "excuse" have important differences.
posted by yesster at 8:11 PM on June 24, 2016


I learned this one the awkward way: Don't call an interior designer an interior decorator.

Using "shiksa" to mean "non-Jewish woman." I know there are many schools of thought about this, but my view is that there are people who use it who don't know that it's often used in a disparaging way, and there are people who use who do. I don't think it's cool either way, regardless of religion. Maybe it's just my thing, though.

King hat

A blog is an entire collection of blog posts. One article is not a "blog".

What really drives me nuts is when it's the people who wrote the damn thing saying it.

Picking up on what Chocolate Pickle posted, thinking a bullet is a metal cylinder which is pointed or rounded on one end. The bullet is just the tip (projectile), which flies out of the case. When you fire a gun the bullet flies forward and the empty case (shell) falls to the ground. (Sometimes they bounce back or up and hit you. Bad!)

One of the VP's at my dad's former place of employment insisted it was a "moo point", yes like a cow!

It's moo.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:11 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The more I learn about the law, the less these things bother me. Honestly, someone being notably picky would turn me off much more than a tiny little malapropism from a non-professional
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:13 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, today I was visiting someone in the hospital and the alarm on one of the machines went off. It didn't appear to be an emergency, but at some point I grabbed a nurse and told her. She walked with me back to the room, telling me I could just switch it off. I said it wasn't the call button, it was "one of the machines checking her...vitals?" The nurse just looked at me and I said, "Too much tv?" She nodded and smiled and said, "Too much tv."
posted by Room 641-A at 8:27 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


In the entertainment lighting business a "lamp" is what other folks usually refer to as a "light bulb." A "light" refers to the whole fixture. Also calling "cables" "wires."
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:35 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


The word for writing Japanese in the Latin alphabet is "romaji," not "romanji."

Shakespeare and Chaucer (to pick two examples) did not write in "Old English." They wrote in (Early) Modern English and Middle English respectively.
posted by No-sword at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


One stands upon a podium and one stands behind a lectern.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 8:55 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


"Hone in on" instead of "home in on."
posted by holborne at 9:01 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pretty much everything on a boat has a different name than on land. A rope is a line, except it could be more specifically a sheet or a halyard or any number of other things. The right side of the boat looking forward is starboard, left is port, the back is aft or the stern, the front is forward or the bow. The kitchen is the galley, the bathroom is the head, your bed is a berth, and a closet is a hanging locker. You don't mop, you swab. And so on...
posted by ssg at 9:05 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a lot in medicine, based on TV or just popular culture. My biggest right now is 'not all dementia is Alzheimer's' It's not shorthand for it - it's a specific form of neurological degeneration.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:53 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Negative reinforcement. Most people use it to mean some kind of punishment. In fact, it means removing an unpleasant (aversive) stimulus to reinforce an action.

A person is not "a schizophrenic". They are a person with schizophrenia. And someone who changes their mind a lot or is otherwise ambivalent is definitely not schizophrenic.
posted by supercres at 9:59 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


"Sous vide" is a process involving vacuum-sealed food (literally "under vacuum"), generally to cook it at lower temperature than normal. The device is an immersion circulator. And the "d" in "sous vide" is pronounced.
posted by supercres at 10:12 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a lawyer, if someone asks me to just change the contract "verbiage" one more time (when they really mean "language")...
posted by Atrahasis at 10:26 PM on June 24, 2016


When an airplane or whatever explodes mid-flight, it's not a "crash." A crash involves an impact. (The pieces falling don't count, when they hit the ground.) The Hindenburg, TWA800 etc did not crash.

Most Air Traffic Controllers are working in windowless rooms somewhere, maybe near the airport, maybe not. The people up in the tower are mostly controlling ground traffic.

It's Silver Spring, Maryland. Silver Springs is in Florida.
But maybe we shouldn't get started with place names.
posted by Rash at 11:02 PM on June 24, 2016


I always wince a little when people say their computer needs more "memory" when they're talking about persistent storage.
posted by town of cats at 11:04 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Copywritten" instead of "copyrighted".
I know the second one sounds ugly, but the first one doesn't describe something being under copyright.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2016


"Chemicals", used to mean "specific man-made chemicals, which the speaker believes to be harmful". As in: this shower gel is free of chemicals.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:58 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Taking a 'peak' at something when they mean 'peek'. Likewise, something peeked/peaked their interest instead of piqued.
posted by halcyonday at 12:12 AM on June 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Hey, who are you?
posted by a halcyon day at 12:24 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


In firefighting, a fire truck (really, just a "truck") carries ladders and tools, but no water or hose. A fire engine has the water tank and hoses.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:50 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Epistemic closure. Somehow a random libertarian pundit decided to lift this term without understanding it, and put it to use to describe beliefs that are unswayed by facts. However it means something almost the opposite - if an agent knows P, and knows that P entails Q, then the agent knows Q as well. So it describes a system in which knowledge is maximal and expands to include all logical entailments of known facts.

This appropriation bothers me in the same way as the misuse of "begs the question" in that these are perfectly useful phrases in their original senses, and if the "new" use overtakes the old one, then we are left with no alternative. Just say "raises the question", people, and leave "begs the question" (and my favorite variant, "question-begging") to its intended purpose of critiquing the structure of an argument.
posted by tractorfeed at 2:04 AM on June 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Generally I get more irritated by peevers than the ‘incorrect’ usages they are peeving about. So for example, there are some birders who insist that ‘seagull’ is incorrect (the preferred term is ‘gull’), whereas I think it’s a perfectly good colloquial word. But I do feel the need to correct people when they use ‘twitcher’ as a general term for all birdwatchers; ‘twitching’ is the specific business of travelling to see individual rare birds for the purpose of racking up a big list. Used correctly here.

And I do get a bit pedantic about ‘Old English’ being used for Middle English or Early Modern English, as mentioned above. Personally I also dislike ‘Anglo-Saxon’ being used to mean ‘British and American’ in phrases like ‘Anglo-Saxon philosophy’ and ‘Anglo-Saxon economics’, but that’s a losing battle.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:31 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


The obverse of what OP was asking, but in obstetrics the technical term for a miscarriage is an abortion. So you would talk about an "induced abortion" if you meant a trip to Planned Parenthood, but a "spontaneous abortion" if it was a miscarriage, a "missed abortion" if there is no fetal cardiac activity but no bleeding yet, a "threatened abortion" if there is bleeding but there is evidence of an continuing intrauterine pregnancy, an "inevitable abortion" if there is still a pregnancy but the cervix is open. You can imagine how upsetting it is for a lay person with a wanted pregnancy to hear "abortion" tossed about in a technical sense.

I drives me nuts to hear my medical students and junior residents say "nauseous" when they mean "nauseated." Also "regime" or "regiment" when they mean a medication regimen.
posted by eglenner at 2:54 AM on June 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sometimes people talk about some trait being "90% genetic," when what they really mean is that it is 90% heritable; there's a big difference.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:48 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


[One deleted. Let's just stick to offering examples of terms that outsiders often get wrong rather than getting into general discussion or rants about people who make mistakes. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:08 AM on June 25, 2016


Unctuous used in a positive sense.
posted by brujita at 5:46 AM on June 25, 2016


From my ballet years, they're pointe shoes, not toe shoes.
posted by romakimmy at 6:22 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I've got a few, I personal don't find these irritating, but I know folk who do:

Champagne is a type of Sparkling wine, it's made in one place, and meets certain quality\variety guidelines. Any other sparkling wine is not Champagne. This is actually true for lots wines you've heard of. Wines are complicated. (food in general is complicated, but especially local specialties. The reason cheeses\wines\whatever are described as "A _____ produced in the ______ region using ______ ingredients and ______ methods aged no more\less than ____" isn't because the sales person is being pretension, it's because that level of specificity is what the word means, I'm sure they'll be happy to explain how each of those effects the final product, specialty food sales people love showing off).

A tuba is the thing that you hold on your lap and sit down to play and looks like a giant baritone a Sousaphone is the thing that wraps around you, it's generally what you see in marching bands. Speaking of which, the baritone has a conic bore, and a Euphonium is the same basic thing with a straight bore.

An electric bass isn't a bass guitar (Although, there are plenty of bass players\makers who call it that, so...).

There's also a movement to start referring to the different grips for string basses as 'overhand' and 'underhand' instead of 'French' and 'German', both of which are sort of inaccurate. The same general idea goes for 'French Horn', which generally just gets referred to as 'The Horn'.

Classical refers to a specific period in Western Art Music History, not the entirety. Similarly: A Symphony is a musical form (usually played by an symphony orchestra, but not always), not just something played by an orchestra, although it's fine to say "I went to the symphony last night," if the group has symphony in the name.

A song is something that was written with lyrics.

Pronghorn antelope aren't really antelope (their closest living relative is actually the forest giraffe), and the meat from them isn't venison (which is meat from deer, elk, and moose).

North American Bison aren't buffalo.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:55 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Using "flush it out" when what is meant is "flesh it out".



and especially: using "ground zero" to mean the beginning of something, like starting a new work project from "ground zero".
posted by springo at 7:26 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you open up the command prompt of Windows (assuming you're not using 9x or ME), that is not DOS. The commands available there are all Windows programs, not DOS. They have all been re-implemented to support the same syntax as the old DOS commands, but in almost all cases many additional options have been added. For example, the command interpreter under DOS was named command.com, whereas it's cmd.exe under Windows NT. Check out the difference between the FOR statement under DOS and the FOR statement under NT, for example.

"x32" is not a synonym for x86, i.e. the standard 32 bit Intel/AMD instruction set architecture, also know variously as i386, IA-32, etc. It's actually a different ABI that is a hybrid of x86 and x86_64 (aka x64 aka amd64 aka EM64T aka Intel 64) which uses 64 bit registers and instructions, but 32 bit pointers. And of course none of these have anything to do with IA-64 (Itanium.)

"shell", "terminal", and "console" are all different terms that mean subtly different things.

When dealing with HTML, "element" and "tag" are not synonyms. An element describes the abstract object (e.g. an anchor element, a span element) and a tag is a specific representation of that element, i.e. a serialization format that allows the object to be represented as a string of characters. But as soon as you parse the tags to create a document tree (a tree of nodes containing element nodes, text nodes, comment nodes, and whitespace nodes) you are back to working with elements and not tags.

In the context of C and C++, the compiler is really just one program in a chain of programs that includes the preprocessor, compiler, assembler, linker, as well as some additional tools like the archive editor. In some implementations, some of these may be combined into a single tool for efficiency, but they are conceptually separate steps, and even when combined they can still be treated as separate programs. For example, most compilers have an integrated preprocessor, but it's possible to get the preprocessed source, either through a separate standalone preprocessor or through a compiler option that only runs the preprocessing phase. The process of turning source code into an executable (commonly referred to as "compiling") requires cooperation of all of these tools, so it's really more correct to refer to them as a toolchain. You might even include things like the debugger or object file dumper in the definition of the toolchain, since they have to speak the same file formats and generally cooperate.

Also, the proper name for the linker is the "link editor." This is in opposition to the dynamic linker, which is a completely different thing. Under Unix for example, the link editor is traditionally a program named ld while the dynamic linker is ld.so. The former is part of the compiler toolchain and runs as the last phase of compilation, whereas the latter is part of the libc and runs at runtime. But most people just call them "linker" and "dynamic linker" respectively, so it's not worth insisting on "link editor", just as long as you know that there are multiple things with that name.

Archivers and compressors are different things, although they're often conflated. Archiving is about combining multiple files into one (usually along with some metadata, such as filename, timestamp, owner, group, mode, etc.), whereas compression is about reducing file size by eliminating redundancy. tar is an archiver, short for "tape archive." It does not do any compression, so it's almost always combined with a compressor, creating files like .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, tar.xz, etc. In contrast, gzip is a compressor and not an archiver because it can't put multiple files into a single .gz file. Formats like .zip and .rar combine aspects of both compression and archiving.

The thing you buy for your home or small office is not really a router, as it doesn't speak any actual routing protocols like BGP. It would be more correct to call it a hybrid of a NAT gateway and a switch, but I think it's far too late to get people to stop calling it a router. Actual routers as you'd find them in ISPs, college campuses, and large corporations are huge and expensive and contain much more sophisticated hardware (i.e. custom ASICs) than the meager little ARM SoCs that you find in one of those home units.

In the context of programming, "code" is a non-counting/mass noun. You write code, you don't write "a code" nor do you write "some codes". (You wouldn't say that you wrote a poetry or some musics.) The same applies to "software."

Open Source and Free Software have different definitions and philosophies. They're not interchangeable, although often software will be compatible with both definitions in which case you'll sometimes see it described as FLOSS or FOSS.

There really is no such thing as "Extended ASCII" or "High ASCII." ASCII is a 7 bit character encoding, but most hardware uses 8 bit bytes, which means that the upper bit is unused under ASCII. It's quite natural to come up with a character encoding that makes use of that last bit (and which is a superset of ASCII), but the problem is that there are dozens and dozens of such 8-bit encodings in the wild. They have actual names like ISO-8859-1 or Code Page 437 or Code Page 1252 and so on. Referring to one of these encodings as "Extended ASCII" is a mistake, because it's non-specific. If you're going to refer to a character encoding, you must use a name that actually refers to a specific encoding, not a general category of numerous possible encodings. These terms are useless and should be avoided.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:42 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anthropology isn't "digging up bones." You're thinking of archaeology, and not even getting that right.

Dyslexia cannot be explained as "that's when the letters flip."

Using "blind," "deaf," "retarded," and "they must have a personality disorder" as insults about a person's character.

The terms "magazine" and "newspaper" are not interchangeable.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:44 AM on June 25, 2016


"Hasidic" instead of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish or Haredi.
Hasidic is (basically) a particular sect within the Jewish world. Most Hasidic folks are pretty devout, but it is not a synonym for observant or Ultra-Orthodox; there are many Ultra-Orthodox Jews who are not Hasidim.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


It drives me nuts when people use 'begs the question' to mean 'raises the question.' Begs the question refers to a specific logical fallacy and it's a useful term that is getting less useful.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:52 AM on June 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


An actual technical one: saying "Y is 300% more than X" (which is really 4 times X) when they mean "Y is 300% as much as X" (which is 3 times X). This happens all the time in reports of scientific studies and I always have to go back to the original paper to find out what's really meant.

Back to non-technical peeves: "in media res" when they mean "in medias res".
posted by dfan at 7:54 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


"~Energy~" when referring to some ill-measured personal/spiritual phenomenon, magically becomes completely synonymous/interconvertible with "Energy" - the ability of a system to perform work* and dissipate the remains in the form of heat.

This kind of act glosses imbecilic anti-rational gibberish with the respectability and solidity of physics - a physics that has been proven rigorously with millions of experiments and a self-consistent intellectual framework that explains a significant fraction of the universe and has powered the world for centuries.

*Work here is defined in a strict sense (as in being able to move a mass through a distance against a force) not like "having a job".
posted by lalochezia at 7:56 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this counts, as it is an error you can only see if it's written, but "free reign" when it should be "free rein." god it annoyed me even to write this one ugh it is the worst
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:19 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a lawyer, people ask me a lot if something is "illegal." Illegal as such is not a terribly useful word; things may have criminal or civil consequences, with "illegal" most closely meaning "contrary to some criminal law." But no one who asks that question makes that distinction so I mostly just sigh and say "well, if you're asking if you'd go to jail...."
posted by mchorn at 8:46 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


But maybe we shouldn't get started with place names.

Maybe not, but if you are writing about Seattle, the market where they throw the fish is Pike Place Market. Not Pike Market, Pike's Market, or (shudder) Pike's Market Place.

There is a street called Pike Place and there is a market on it. Pike Place Market.
posted by kindall at 9:12 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Schizophrenia" is a thought disorder that often involves hallucinations. It does not mean someone has multiple personalities or someone or something has many different viewpoints or emotions or opinions.

"Talk therapy" means therapy in which talking is the primary mode of communication and treatment, unlike art therapy or somatic therapy or equine therapy, etc. It does not automatically mean psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapy. CBT is a type of talk therapy.

"PTSD" should not be used to describe a completely normal trauma response immediately following a trauma. The "D" is for "disorder," and the diagnosis requires that the normal response has lasted a disabling long time (at least a month).

Also people should not use "mental illness" when they mean "mental health," or vice versa.

And it's an ongoing debate within the field, but the idea that mental-health disorders are "chemical imbalances" is almost always used in ways that are not really supported by much evidence.
posted by lazuli at 10:21 AM on June 25, 2016


I may be the last person in North America to notice, or care, when people fail to distinguish between less and fewer. Also, I am still surprised to hear people use "could care less" instead of "couldn't care less." In the first case, the meaning is sometimes fogged, but in the second, I know what they meant. Still, they both make me cranky. I'm also sensitive to the placement of "only." Please, oh please, link it only to the word you wish to modify, not to the basket you brought it in.

These things don't bother me much in conversational settings, but when I hear newscasters or presenters doing it my hackles rise--after all, they are getting paid to explain stuff, so I hold them to a higher standard.
posted by mule98J at 11:03 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Given how open ended the OP is, for a lot of terms of art, remember they only have a precise meaning when using them in the appropriate discipline. Both scientists and lawyers are especially bad at using a common enough word that had an everyday meaning (evolution, energy, ape, harassment), defining it more precisely and narrowly for their work, and then telling everyone else that they aren't using the word right. If I never see or hear another comment that "actually, evolving doesn't mean getting better" to "correct" someone in a non-biological context it will be to soon for me.

-------------

On the other side of this, I'll add there's a lot of imprecision in discussion on genetics. One simple thing to remember is DNA basically doesn't do anything; its a stable molecule that sits there and gets acted on by proteins which are making more proteins. Saying a "gene does something" is OK because you're talking about the whole system in context, but make sure you never slip into some version of "DNA does this." Whatever you are interested in probably wasn't done by DNA.

Also, "biological" is not synonymous with "genetic." If you measure a difference in the brain structure of empathic people or people who like chocolate, you have found a biological difference but anything about this being "genetically determined" or even influenced is unwarranted unless you have other information.
posted by mark k at 11:23 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


People adding "-itis" to the end of a word to make it a joke disease, like "senioritis".

"-itis" isn't a generic suffix for disease. It means specifically that the thing's inflamed. Appendicitis = your appendix is inflamed. Tonsilitis = inflamed tonsil(s).

"-osis" may be a better choice of suffix. It means a condition where something's abnormal, diseased, or otherwise not right.
posted by cadge at 12:36 PM on June 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


People who say or write "walla!" instead of "voilà!". I hear/see it all the time.
posted by futz at 12:44 PM on June 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Regarding bicycles

A "fixed gear" or "fixie" is a bike that doesn't coast, and it goes backwards if you turn the pedals backwards. It's more specific than "single speed," which conventionally refers to a bike with a single speed freewheel, which is capable of coasting. (I say freewheel, but it could also be a cassette, depending on how it's attached to the rear wheel.)

People disagree over definitions of "brake pad" vs. "brake shoe" and I think there are regional variations, but when something wears out and you need to replace it, that think is probably the pad/shoe. You don't need new brakes.

If the brakes are hitting the rim as you ride you may need to true the wheel and align the brakes, but those verbs aren't interchangeable. (Aligning the wheel in the frame is a thing, but it isn't related to truing.) You definitely do not true the rim or the spokes.

A wheel consists of several parts, which people routinely misidentify. In the center is the hub. Spokes connect the hub to the rim (which is usually metal). "Rim" and "wheel" are not synonymous. On the rim is a tire, and inside the tire is a tube (unless you're using a tubeless system, in which case things are different). When you get a flat, you need to patch the tube, not the tire. (If it's a really big puncture, you might put a boot in the tire.)

I think some bike terminology confusion stems from different usage in the automotive world. There are regional variations too. In the US, mechanics tend to refer to certain large, extra-thin wrenches as spanners. In British English, I believe, "spanner" is synonymous with the American English "wrench."

As a mechanic, I'm pretty accustomed to all kinds of inaccurate terminology (or lack of specific detail, like "the thing is making a noise, I think it might be bent") but occasionally I cringe a little when someone comes in to say "I got a flat, I think I need a new wheel. Also, how much would it cost to align my rim and get new brakes?"
posted by sibilatorix at 12:57 PM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I realize this battle is lost already, in terms of common useage, but: as a person who studied folklore in college, the misuse of the word "myth" drives me crazy.
Myths are stories that a) happened in the past and b) are OVER, i.e. "George Washington chopped down the cherry tree", or the Bible, or Leda and the Swan. Legends are stories that continue into the present day, like, "That hotel is haunted!" or "If you eat Pop Rocks and drink Coke you'll die!" or "Almost every single thing they do on Mythbusters, which should be called Legendbusters, goddammit." I am delightful to watch Mythbusters with, I assure you.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 2:22 PM on June 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whenever someone triumphantly uses the phrase "Then a light went off!" to describe a moment of inspiration, an angel loses its wings.
posted by springo at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2016


Almost every time you read a musical term anywhere except in academic literature, it's misused. Most often misused: "beat." Most egregiously misused: it's a tie between "scale" and "key."
posted by nosila at 3:37 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


spiders referred to as insects.
posted by dhruva at 3:51 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


web designer vs. web developer
posted by bendy at 3:59 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Rim" and "wheel" are not synonymous.

They are among a certain demographic, although that's for automobile wheels, not bicycle.

People who say or write "walla!" instead of "voilà!"

So that's what's meant by "walla"! Merci beaucoup! I thought it was some variation of hella.

Drone for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Yes, I realize that one's lost as well.
posted by Rash at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


So that's what's meant by "walla"! Merci beaucoup! I thought it was some variation of hella.

Ok, first offering thoughts & prayers to anyone who's encountered "walla" as a misspelling of "voilà." That is terrible. But just in case it might ever plausibly explain an instance you encounter, both Arabic and colloquial Hebrew have exclamation words that are transliterated as "walla!" (Arabic's means something like "by God!" and Hebrew's is a sort of exclamation of surprise, probably a derivative of the Arabic.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:11 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hear you fingersandtoes!, and the distinction is important but the instances that I am referring to are definitely not what you are talking about. When I do point it out to people they say that they had never made the connection between the written word and the way that the word sounded to them. (and no, I am not that jerk who corrects people all the time.)

:)
posted by futz at 7:50 PM on June 25, 2016


DPI (dots per inch) when meaning PPI (pixels per inch).
(A pixel is an area of any color you want - any of millions of colours. Dots by contrast can normally only be C, M, Y, or K, so to create one pixel you need to use a collection of dots. Depending on the printer, 300 PPI could be about 2400 DPI)
Normally you can guess what someone means from the context or the numbers, but sometimes you can't.
posted by anonymisc at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2016


I believe you, futz. God help us all.

Ok, here's another one, not technical but foreign language: bruschetta is pronounced with a hard c. American waiters sometimes correct me, insisting it's brushetta. My hair falls out a little more each time, and my frown lines deepen.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


"could care less" has become an idiom, which means the literal meaning of the words in the phrase no longer matter.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:55 PM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


both Arabic and colloquial Hebrew have exclamation words that are transliterated as "walla!"

To which I would add one of my verbal pet peeves:

"voila!" literally means "look there!" in French. It's not a general exclamation like "wow!" or "hooray!" It means basically the same thing as "lookit!", or a sort of shorthand for "and here's the result!"
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as the "Democrat party" in the U.S., it is the "Democratic party".
posted by blueberry at 11:44 PM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking of how "Schadenfreude" often is used as a stand-in for anything vaguely gleeful, while it really only means a (negatively connoted) happiness about someone else's detriment.
More generally, about 99% of casually strewn-in German in English literary texts is either faultily spelled or used to express something altogether else, and, most importantly, could have been avoided altogether without any loss of meaning.

(And YES I'm also looking at you, Diana Gabaldon, who in defiance of that German proofreader, whatshername, always winds up with a bunch of German stuff that really doesn't sound right, no matter whether it's to be meant as 18th-C. talk or not.)
posted by Namlit at 12:03 AM on June 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I constantly tell recruiters and hiring managers why they're getting no responses to job postings for "UX developers."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:10 AM on June 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ok, here's another one, not technical but foreign language: bruschetta is pronounced with a hard c. American waiters sometimes correct me, insisting it's brushetta. My hair falls out a little more each time, and my frown lines deepen.

Dio mio yesss. The corollary to this is when people or menus use panini as a singular noun.

One panino, two panini.

"Do you want a panini?" is literally saying "Do you want a sandwiches?" Gah.
posted by romakimmy at 4:14 AM on June 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


When people writing about audio engineering write the shortened version of microphone as "mike" instead of "mic."
posted by werkzeuger at 6:41 AM on June 26, 2016


In kitchens, at least professional ones, a spatula is a tool with a thin, blunt metal blade used for spreading. A [rubber] scraper is the tool with a flexible, thicker blade used for cleaning out bowls. Spatulas always have handles, but scrapers may or may not.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:40 AM on June 26, 2016


Yeah, but "panini" is an English singular word that happens to be derived from an Italian plural. "Panino" is not a word in English.
posted by stopgap at 7:47 AM on June 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


When people writing about audio engineering write the shortened version of microphone as "mike" instead of "mic."

I was just reading a lamentation that the younger generation wrongly uses "mic" whereas the traditional spelling had always been "mike."
posted by stopgap at 7:49 AM on June 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


More seriously, you see "mike" in ham radio and communications contexts, and "mic" in music recording and sound reinforcement (PA) so it may well be both are acceptable usage depending on which world you travel in.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:00 AM on June 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've ranted about this one before, but I'll do it every chance I get: on true crime shows and the like, like the stuff you see on the Investigation Discovery channel, you often hear teasers that say something like, "Next: the trial begins. Will such and such be able to prove his innocence?" AAAAAARGH. Defendants never ever ever have to prove their innocence, or anything else, at a trial; the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty. It's not only wrong to say "prove his innocence," it's actually damaging to the justice system because people internalize the idea that a defendant has something to prove at a trial.

A corollary: the narrator will often say in shocked tones about a trial: "And the defendant didn't even testify!" AAAAARGH again. The defendant not only doesn't have to testify (see above about defendant not having to prove anything), but almost never does (and really shouldn't, in general). I've read literally hundreds of trial transcripts and the ones in which I've seen defendants testify don't even get into the double digits. It's not as though defendants who don't testify are tacitly showing that they're guilty because they're too afraid to undergo cross examination.
posted by holborne at 2:39 PM on June 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hay is usually green, is cut while the plant is alive, kind of like mowing the lawn, usually is dried before baling to keep, and is a feed for herbivores. Straw is usually yellow, is cut after the plant has had its seed harvested and has finished its life cycle, and has no food value.
posted by rfs at 3:39 PM on June 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


Fiancé/fiancée are misused all the time on Ask and I keep assuming every guy asking questions about his fiancé is gay.
posted by carolr at 8:39 PM on June 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


In the context of programming, "code" is a non-counting/mass noun. You write code, you don't write "a code" nor do you write "some codes".

Unless you are an engineer working with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solvers. These are widely referred to as codes. "What code do you use?" "SU2 is an open-source CFD code." "Among the codes supported by Tecplot are..."
posted by kindall at 9:40 AM on June 27, 2016


For Bible stuff:

It's the book of Revelation, singular, not plural. It's one long revelation.

Revelation 1:1-2 "This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."

Most books of the Bible have chapters, but not the Book of Psalms. It's a collection of discrete literary units. So you never read "Psalms chapter 76," you read "Psalm 76" or "the 76th psalm." Just like you don't sing Hymnal chapter 115. You turn to song 115 in that hymnal.

Books of the Bible that are preceded by a number are read as first, second, or third Title of Book. "2 Thessalonians 3:5" is read "Second Thessalonians chapter three verse five."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:54 AM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not every rocket/spacecraft is a Space Shuttle. Also they're not rocket scientists; they're propulsion engineers.
posted by brownpau at 12:15 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sex !=! Gender
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:23 PM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Pink Superhero reminds me of another:

Gender Reveal Parties, those cute stunts expectant families to do announce the sex of their baby to family and friends.

It should be Sex Reveal Party, because you cannot possibly know a person's gender before they're born and able to express it themselves.
posted by Sara C. at 2:29 PM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Far more people know the dogs than the people, so this sets off my pet peeve alarm nearly every time I hear the word spoken aloud:

Newfoundland is pronounced NEW-fən(d)-LAN(D). Accent is on the final syllable. The schwa goes in the "found" always and only (never ever ever in the "land"). The D's are entirely optional (the first one especially), and the NEW can be NOO or NYOO. Those are plenty of options; you don't need more and you don't get more. If you're saying new-FOUND-lənd or NEW-fənd-lənd, please take a moment to think about just what the heck it is you're doing with your life. Thank you, and enjoy your stopover in Gander.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 PM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Survey vs. interview vs. questionnaire.

The overall project to collect data from respondents is a survey. It's an overview, as the "sur" & "vey" from French would indicate. The person who does a survey is the researcher, not the respondent.

If a survey project uses interviewers to collect data by phone or in person, those interactions are interviews, not surveys.

If respondents fill out questions themselves on paper or the web, those sets of questions are questionnaires, not surveys.

My grad school methods prof drew those disctinctions carefully for me 25 years ago. However, now even she (who's my current boss) acquiesces when less-savvy survey folk apply "survey" to things that aren't.
posted by NumberSix at 9:53 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


peruse: in my experience almost always misused, for it means to read closely and carefully, not quickly.
posted by standardasparagus at 4:47 PM on June 29, 2016


When people call a Metafilter comment, a "post."
posted by Chrysostom at 12:46 PM on July 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


One word I'm trying (but mostly failing) to use more carefully/accurately is 'random'. I used it wrong here: it wouldn't really be a random bank account, it would be a specific pre-determined bank account controlled by the thieves. Maybe that only bothers me.
posted by ctmf at 12:41 PM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Use" and "utilize" are not interchangeable!
posted by jgirl at 12:10 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's HIPAA. One P, two As.
posted by ctmf at 1:07 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Skyl1n3: "Ambulance drivers" for EMS personnel.

_Mona_: Though uniforms and badges typically clearly display whether an EMS worker is a medic or EMT, feel free to err on the "paramedic" side of things when talking about an EMS professional.

A non-emegency ambulance was sent to bring my mom to the ER this morning, and she was being cranky. This advice stuck with me, but my stressed out brain couldn't unjumbled "emsemtparamedic" so as a kind of short-handed I ended up asking her to please listen to the ambulance drivers. Oof.

When we got to the ER and they were filling out paperwork I approached one and apologized for not recognizing that they were medical professionals, an I'd meant no disrespect. I think he had tears in his eyes when he told me how much that meant to him. He called his partner over and told him, and I think his partner wanted to hug me. He also said not to feel bad because people call them taxi drivers all the time :(

Just another example of how MeFi helps me be a better person and sometimes make other people slightly happier.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:57 AM on July 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


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