Three Words Everyone Keeps Misusing


Being an English major (or anything related) can save the human race. Because of us, there is hope.

And if you point out that my first sentence is passive, or that I started the next two sentences with “because” and “and,” congratulations. You’re hired.

Grammar Nazis everywhere now have a new world-salvaging task: to advocate for the grammatically challenged, since it appears no one is going to stop using the following words and phrases incorrectly. Ever.

Before you venture out into the unknown, arm yourself with the linguistic truth.

“Legitimately” and “Literally” Are Not Synonyms

Really? You “legitly” failed your math test? I think you mean you literally received a failing grade on it, because these two words are not at all the same thing. Something legitimate follows a set of rules, like a legitimate birth certificate. Something literal is exact, the opposite of a figurative statement. You are literally missing the point.

Something “Ironic” Is “Opposite”

Let’s pretend I’m talking with someone who absolutely hated contemporary young adult fiction (and if you do, you’re entitled to your preference). Situational irony would involve meeting them for lunch and walking up to the restaurant to find them reading The Hunger Games because they got bored waiting. While irony is often used to convey humor, something ‘funny’ isn’t always ironic.

Are We “Farther” or “Further” From Making Any Progress Here?

One refers to distance, while the other references moving forward. Can you tell the difference? It’s not that simple if you’re an abstract thinker (many writers are). It’s not unheard of to compare advancement to traveling a great distance. Someone moves farther down a sidewalk than you, but you’re further along in your college education than they are. Farther is a physical measure, while further is a less concrete term. (Sidewalk? Concrete? Hehe.)

Let’s build on this list. Comment with your “misused words and phrases” pet peeves. The first step to educating those less “grammatically inclined” is to know where we’re starting from. Together, we can save the English language.


Love&hugs, Meg<3