10 Commonly Misunderstood Words [infographic]

June 29, 2011 |  by  |  Education

My friends and I are self-professed grammar geeks. Upon hearing Alanis Morissette’s 90s hit “Ironic” on the radio, a worn out discussion usually breaks out: is she using the word “ironic” correctly? Yes, you can roll your eyes now. But, seriously, “It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife” is not really ironic, is it? (And I know that this discussion is more worn out than your favorite gym shorts…)

Today’s infographic supports my argument, but it also schools me against using “literally” as an emphatic “really,” and reminds me that politely chuckling does not a bemused person make. Some of the distinctions seem fairly close, as in the case of “plethora,” but a lot of these are good reminders. Whether this inforgraphic warms your heart or not, take a look to see if you are guilty of any of the offenses below. [Via]

10 Commonly Misunderstood Words

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  • Benjamyn

    Since the song “Ironic” doesn’t actually have any examples of irony, doesn’t that mean it is lyrically contrary to expectation. Perhaps Morissette is actually a misunderstood genius.

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  • james dipadua

    seems like most of the “you think it means” are just how we use words now. when you use something for a specific purpose, that becomes part of its definition–its definition is connected to its existential purpose. in other words, you cannot fight the evolution of language with a dictionary because dictionaries are immutable whereas language is constantly evolving, which essentially means that this list is useless beyond a “oh, wow…that word *use* to mean ___ but *now* means ___.”

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  • zoid

    ironically james, you’ve made a grammar mistake that makes you look silly (“used”).  what you say about language evolving is obviously true, but people have to agree on the meaning of a word in order to convey a message or that message is lost from person to person. that is, if some idiot says “literally” before every statement they make simply as an intensifier, i might not know that their mother did not “literally” die if they say “omg, like, then my mom literally died!” language evolves, but its purpose is COMMUNICATION and we can’t accept every little change some moron decides to make to it based on misinformation.

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  • JBelle

    Ironic isn’t understood today as just any kind of amusing coincidence, at least, not from what I hear people use it for and not the way it is used in the song. It is commonly understood as a coincidence that is opposite of what you would want or expect or need. Thus, the “ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.” <– that is an instance where you have plentiful spoons at your disposal contrary to what you need, which is a knife. It is not just: "Oh! Bobby ironically showed up to his birthday party." Rather, it is more like: "Oh! Bobby ironically happened to show up just as we were about to hide his birthday cake, spoiling the surprise." There usually is that sense of contrary to expectation that coincides with its usage.

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