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6 phrases that you've been using incorrectly

Last updated on: December 31, 2014 18:44 IST

Continuing with our series on correct English usage, we list out six phrases that are so often misused.

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6 sentences that make absolutely no sense!

6 (more) sentences that are... erm... wrong!


1. One in the same

Think of it! This one makes no sense whatsoever!

Somewhere along the way, it became a (incorrect) replacement for the phrase 'one and the same'

One and the same is often used in place of 'the same thing'.

One in the same is incorrect. Period!

Instead say: One and the same

Eg: Brinjal and aubergine are one and the same.

2. On tender hooks

Tenters were wooden frames used to dry woollen cloth.

As way back as the 14th century, after the cloth was woven, it would have to be cleaned of oil from the fleece and dirt.

The cloth would then have to be left to dry so it wouldn't shrink and would be stretched on the tenter using tenterhooks.

Tenterhooks were basically hooked nails driven through the wood to which were fixed the edges of the cloth so as it prevent it from shrinking and losing shape.

When someone leaves you on tenterhooks, it suggests a state of tension, not unlike the figuratively stretched cloth on the tenter.

Instead say: On tenterhooks

Eg: I was on tenterhooks because she didn't call me for two whole days!

3. Old adage

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines adage as 'an old and well-known saying that expresses a general truth'.

So while the phrase old adage is used often, adding 'old' before adage is as redundant as saying ATM machine!

Instead say: Adage

Eg: As the famous adage goes: The show must go on!

4. Safe haven

How often have you read this sentence: Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists!

Haven can be defined as 'a place of shelter and safety'.

Much like Old adage and ATM machine, the prefix 'safe' in this case is redundant and avoidable!

Instead say: haven

Eg: Pakistan is a haven for terrorists!

5. For all intensive purposes

The word intensive suggests something that is strenuous or focussed (for example, an intensive course).

Intensive purpose however, makes little or no sense.

What does make sense (and what is appropriate) is 'for all intents and purposes', which basically means 'for all practical purposes'.

Therefore say: for all intents and purposes

Eg. For all intents and purposes your contract is illegal and cannot be defended in the court of law.

6. Scott free

Spot the error yet?

No? Here's the thing:

Scot-free is when you get away without being punished for your wrongdoings.

Scott Free is, well, at best the name of a person!

Therefore say: scot-free

Eg. How could the police let the drunk driver off scot-free?

Are there more #Indianisms you can think of?

We would love to hear from you!

Post your gems on ZaraBol -- #Indianisms -- and we will publish the best ones right here on Rediff.com!

Lead image used for representational purposes only.

Photograph: Jason Bolonski/Creative Commons