20 Common Phrases Even the Smartest People Misuse

Here’s a fun list of phrases that people commonly get wrong for one reason or another. It includes a couple of clangers from the New York Times and BBC as well, which always adds to the fun! The following two examples are typical of the list:

Honed In

First, it’s important to note that this particular expression is hotly debated. Many references now consider “hone in” a proper alternate version of “home in.” That said, it is still generally accepted that “home in” is the more correct phrase. To home in on something means to move toward a goal, such as “The missile homed in on its target.” To “hone” means to sharpen. You would say, “I honed my résumé writing skills.” But you would likely not say, “The missile honed in on its target.” When followed by the preposition “in,” the word “hone” just doesn’t make sense.

Baited Breath

The term “bated” is an adjective meaning suspense. It originated from the verb “abate,” meaning to stop or lessen. Therefore, “to wait with bated breath” essentially means to hold your breath with anticipation. The verb “bait,” on the other hand, means to taunt, often to taunt a predator with its prey. A fisherman baits his line in hopes of a big catch. Considering the meaning of the two words, it’s clear which is correct, but the word “bated” is mostly obsolete today, leading to ever-increasing mistakes in this expression.

You can view the entire list HERE.