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You Keep Using That Word: Less Pedantic
  • There is a famous (for a given value of "famous") poem by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, inventor of the "modern technique" of handgun combat:
    A clip is not a magazine
    A mag is not a clip
    Neither is a grip a stock
    And "stock" does not mean "grip".

    I do not mean to nitpick
    But improvement might be seen
    If we could bring ourselves to say
    Exactly what we mean.
    • A clip and a magazine are often used interchangeably, but military terminology is that a clip feeds a magazine (or the cylinder of a revolver) quickly; a magazine feeds into the weapon itself. A removable magazine is often referred to as a clip even by military sources, however.
      • This was highlighted early in 2014 when a California state senator delivered a press conference tirade where he kept using "30 calibre clip" and "30 magazine clip" to characterize the supposed firing speed of a gun.
    • A stock is the part of a rifle, shotgun, or occasionally SMG or pistol that is braced against the shoulder; a grip is the part that is actually, well, gripped—it's specifically the part of the gun that is held by the hand that pulls the trigger, and includes the trigger itself. The stock and grip are together part of the receiver, the framework that holds the whole thing together (often called a frame on handguns).
    • A bullet is the metal slug fired from a gun. A cartridge or round is the unfired ammunition. A casing is the spent part of the cartridge ejected otherwise. Referring to unfired cartridges as bullets is a classic error. Similarly, shot is what's fired from a shotgun. Shell can be both the unfired ammo and the spent casing.
      • To be extra confusing, old style cannon fired shot (solid projectiles) and shells (explosive projectiles). Explosive projectiles are still called shells.
    • A barrel is the tube a bullet travels down when fired; before firing, the bullet sits (contained in a cartridge, see above) in a chamber. Revolvers have multiple chambers which rotate in a cylinder; other guns load their chambers (or "chamber rounds") from their magazines.
  • For small arms, caliber means the width of the barrel at the narrowest point. "High caliber" is not, in fact, a way of saying "high power". E.g. A 7.62x39mm round fired from an AKM will not impart as much energy to a target as a 7.62x54mm round fired from a SVD Dragunov, nor will the 9x19mm Parabellum round impart as much energy as the 7.62x25mm Tokarev round.
    • Another way to think of it is that a "high caliber bullet" will generally be fired from a bigger gun. However, caliber has nothing to do with strength by itself. If you're trying to say that a high caliber hand gun is more powerful than a low caliber rifle, chances are that you're wrong. Unless you want to get into the specifics of grain count, rifling twist, bullet velocity and weight, you're better off assuming that hand guns are less powerful than rifles.
      • To put it another way, "caliber" is absolutely not the same thing as "stopping power". A small-caliber bullet fired from a high-powered rifle is a lot more likely to kill you than a large-caliber bullet fired at a much slower speed — the latter bulldozes its way through the entire region via hydrostatic shock; the former punctures its way through a narrow path. Kinetic energy is a function of the mass times the square of the speed.
    • On the same subject, "Bore" and "Calibre" are not necessarily interchangeable. Traditionally for rifled weaponry, especially rifled artillery, "Bore" denotes the number of Turns in the number of Calibres I.E. how many times the width of the projectile down the barrel the projectile must travel to have one complete turn imparted on it by the rifling. So a rifled late Victorian artillery piece with one turn per 38 calibres is a 38 bore, but a smoothbore early Victorian cannon is a zero bore. To confuse matters further, in the UK the word "bore" is also used to mean the same as "gauge" in regards to shotguns: a measure of barrel diametre based upon the weight of a solid lead ball that will fit perfectly into the barrel, expressed as the denominator of a vulgar fraction of a pound if the numerator is one. Thus if the largest lead ball you can fit into the shotgun barrel weighs one twelfth of a pound, you have a 12-bore (or, in the US, 12-guage) shotgun.
    • To confuse matters, there are two separate meanings of the phrase "high-caliber," one of which means larger bullets, and the older of which means "fits the mold ideally." Therefore in other usage, higher caliber always means "better," but in guns it's just a straight technical term with no better/worse meaning.
    • To confuse the situation even further, the term caliber is also used to indicate barrel length of artillery pieces, especially naval artillery. So when one refers to a 5"/ 38 caliber gun, one is referring to a gun with a barrel that is one caliber, or 5", internal diameter, and 38 calibers, or 190" long.
  • Point-blank does not mean "at very close range". Point-blank refers to the maximum distance between a firearm and its target before one's aim needs to be adjusted for elevation. Of course, for field artillery or naval guns designed to launch shells in long parabolic arcs, that is quite a close range. For handguns or rifles, not so much.
  • The word factoid is often used as if it meant "little fact" or "trivia," as in "here's a little factoid for you". It actually means "something resembling a fact but with no evidence to support it"note , much like android is 'something that resembles a man'. Amusingly, this can often make the word more appropriate than the speaker's intention.
  • Royalty is not the same as nobility or gentry. Royalty is basically the nearest family of a ruler, while nobles are descendants of knights and landowners. There could be royal dukes and noble dukes. Gentry is somewhere between a subclass of nobility and a category of its own, as people in that class usually own land and are descended from well-established and well-connected families, but don't have hereditary titles or offices.
  • Ironic doesn't (simply) mean "funny", "unexpected", "coincidental" or "cruel." See Irony for more on the subject, and Isn't It Ironic? for more on the misuse.
    • And on a similar note, cynicism isn't "sarcastic but more". Sarcasm is mocking, cynicism is jaded negativity.
      • And before cynicism got its current meaning, it was a Greek philosophy which taught that happiness is independence. From as much as possible - pleasures, law, other people...
  • Impeach does not mean to remove someone from office. Impeachment is the process by which an individual is put on trial for unlawful activity. So Congress did not "try to impeach" Bill Clinton, they did. He was not removed from office, though.
    • In the legal context, it means to attack someone's credibility. At trial, both lawyers are trying to impeach the other's witnesses and it has nothing to do with elected office.
  • Irregardless is not a standard word. In a case of actual irony, this is almost the exclusive purview of people trying to sound more literate than they are, and achieving the exact opposite. In a case of further irony, you're vastly more likely to encounter this word in a style guide or as part of a joke than you are to ever hear anyone using it naïvely; we're calling out people who "don't know the language" by accusing them of using what was originally a non-word, even in a descriptivist sense. Linguists often refer to this fairly common phenomenon as "overnegation". It is so common that the SAT has at least one question per writing section testing it. It is usually under the hardest questions, too. The Brothers Chaps lampooned this in their Peasant's Quest flash game by using the word "irredisregardless". The funny thing is, despite the word having no precedent, it's a triple negative, so it's technically correct.
  • A Scientific Theory is not a guess, hypothesis, or conjecture. It's an established framework of one or more hypotheses with a significant body of evidence backing it. In other words, it's been "proven" to the extent it can be. If a model makes accurate predictions and is consistent with testing and/or observation it can eventually be called a theory, while the word hypothesis is reserved for an idea that you think might work but you haven't had the chance to rigorously test yet. As for why the word theory is used rather than, say, fact or law, this is simply a result of the general understanding that any theory may be incomplete or inaccurate.

    This doesn't mean we have any doubts about the validity of the theory itself, but that we may not know everything about it. Gravity is a good example, gravity is "only a theory". That is, our model of how gravity works may not be entirely correct; in fact we know it isn't, since our current theory does not incorporate quantum effects. That doesn't stop gravity from being real. Similarly evolution simply means change, and in the context of biology simply means change from one generation to the next in terms of genetic makeup. Our current theory of how species evolve through natural selection is a theory because the model may not be perfect, but the fact that organisms change from generation to generation is an observable fact.

    Incidentally, even in non-scientific usage the word theory did not always mean guess. If you look at how, say, Sherlock Holmes would use the word theory, it would be a model explaining a crime, which is based on evidence, is testable, and has explanatory powers.
    • It should be noted that this word is now subject to a misconception of the opposite sign, as a result of an overzealous response to the above mistake. The word "theory" does not imply that an idea is unproven, but neither does it imply that it is proven: it really doesn't say anything about the degree of confidence in it. For example, the theory of phlogiston is a thoroughly disproven scientific theory on combustion. It's still a theory, i.e. a system of ideas that aims to explain scientific phenomena on the basis of general principle - it's just that nobody believes in it any more.
    • The core "essence" of a proper theory (and by extension hypothesis) is it has the property of falsifiability. This merely means that it's possible to construct a repeatable experiment to test if it's wrong. The actual outcome (proven correct or proven wrong) is irrelevant.
    • As a further, a scientific law doesn't mean it's "more proven" than a theory. A law is (loosely) is something derived from a theory to cover a certain point. If your theory was "Jack Harkness is the sexiest creature in existence." then a one law may be "If you are in Jack Harkness' presence for more than 31.2 seconds, you will snog him." In more scientific the classic e=mc^2 is a law derived from the Theory of Relativity.
  • The words racism, prejudice and stereotype are often confused. Racism is defined as any policy or belief based in whole or in part on the pseudo-scientific theory that all humanity consists of biologically distinct races and that every member of each race has the distinct physical and/or behavioral characteristics of that racenote . Prejudice means the belief that "a group of people [are] characterized by their race, social class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability or religion." Stereotypes, on the other hand, are "generalizations of existing characteristics that reduce complexity" (also copied from The Other Wiki). So, the belief of the USA's 'Southern' slave-owners that anyone who was not an Anglo-Saxon European was by default of an inferior race was racism, the belief of Anglo-Saxon settlers that the USA's Amerindian peoples were savages was prejudice, and the belief that all Canadians constantly say "eh" is a stereotype.
    • Similarly, people often use discrimination to mean negative treatment based on prejudice. In fact, discrimination simply means any differential treatment, regardless of what such differentiation is based on or whether such treatment is positive or negative. Which is why we have an article for Positive Discrimination. Discrimination can and is perfectly rational and justifiable in many situations: for instance, the practice of hiring the more qualified candidate for a job is a form of discrimination. Another example would be to discriminate between foods one likes and doesn't like (i.e. ordering the strawberry shortcake over the apple pie because you do not like cinnamon)—this last sort of "discrimination" is why "discriminating" is a compliment in dealing with matters of taste (e.g. the discriminating wine-drinker can tell the Grand Cru Bordeaux from the plonk, and is considered to have Good Taste because he "discriminates" in favour of the former over the latter).
    • Finns have become really, really bad at misusing "racism" ("rasismi") in the past ten years or so. People talk about "age racism" or "fat racism" or god forbid, even "sex racism" because they think "racism" just means "discrimination". Part of this stems from the English loanword "rasismi" replacing the old, 100% Finnish word "rotusyrjintä" (literally "race discrimination"). Nobody in their right mind would use a term like "ikärotusyrjintä" ("age race discrimination"), but "ikärasismi", "age racism" is ridiculously popular.
      • You will often see this used correctly in military contexts. If armed forces are said to be indiscriminate, they have crossed the Moral Event Horizon.
      • "Reverse Racism" is supposed to mean when an assumed minority (not sure how the original South Africans were treated in South Africa, but they were technically in the majority, yet were oppressed by the minority) acts racist towards majority members, an assumption that a majority member is being racist to a minority member when in fact they're showing them preference. It's also used pejoratively when a majority member feels that they are being discriminated against because they are in the majority. These are all cases of racism, reverse racism would logically be the same as total equality.
  • Similarly, there appears to be a confusion about the words sexism and misogyny. Sexism is discrimination and stereotyping based on sex, and encompasses all forms of discrimination based on sex (indeed, even men who believe that women are inherently better than men, for example). Misogyny and misandry are hatred of women and men respectively. Some dictionaries have expanded this to include deep-seated prejudice against women or men respectively (so a womanizer who sees women only as sex objects would be a misogynist, despite his claims to love women).
    • Nor is sexism always either misandry or misogyny. Something can be sexist to the detriment of a sex, without being misogynist. For example, a company which has fifty percent female employees but only ten percent female executives may be considered sexist. But unless it has some sort of rule or constitutional edict limiting female executives or intentionally making it harder for them to become executives, it isn't misogynist.
  • Feminism gets ugly misuse for misandry, although this can be part blamed on the common misconception that feminism is misandry. It's ostensibly about gender equality and/or the discarding of 'gender' altogether, albeit typically with a female focus (though this is changing).
    • It doesn't help that what level-headed (read: not misandrist) feminists advocate is simply gender-egalitarianism.
  • There is some confusion as to what a Justification is in the wiki's jargon, due to the everyday use of the term in Justifying Edit. A Justified Trope does not require a Justifying Edit. A trope is justified when the in-universe explanation for its use makes sense in context. A Justifying Edit is just a fan of a work complaining that another editor dared list that work under a particular trope page.
  • Polygamy is "marriage of one person to more than one spouse" (to distinguish it from "group marriage"). It is not just a synonym for "polygyny", "marriage of a man to more than one wife". Most arguments brought up in response to "What's wrong with polygamy?" (e.g., "It oppresses women") are just irrelevant to "polyandry", "marriage of a woman to more than one husband". (And not just because "polyandrists do not exist", which is also factually incorrect.)
  • You can only truly plead the fifth in a particularly bad court of Hollywood Law. The correct phrase is to "take the fifth" (for those non-Americans unaffected by the Eagleland Osmosis: "The fifth" is the fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, one clause of which protects against self-incrimination; when being "read your rights", this is the first right you are reminded of). Pleading in a criminal prosecutionnote  requires a plea, most often "not guilty" or "guilty". (There's also nolo contendere, "no contest": "I didn't do it, but I will not fight the charges," usually done to avoid civil liability on the grounds of res judicata/collateral estoppel.)
  • Similarly (and technically), pleading insanity is shorthand used outside of court for pleading "not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect".
    • Also worth noting is that one cannot be diagnosed as insane, because insanity is a legal concept, not a medical one. Even if a medical professional determines a person is mentally ill, a court must decide if that mental illness is legally relevant.
  • The phrase "compare and contrast" is redundant. Contrasting involves comparing—contrasting is comparing only the differences, while comparing in the broader sense may also note similarities. This error in rampant in this very wiki.
  • Crescendo is the process of getting louder, or greater in some other way, not a rise on pitch, or to the peak reached at the end of that process. So something can't "reach a crescendo" — well, it can, but that would mean the point where things start to get more intense. The word you're probably looking for is climax (although pedants would point out that "climax" is Greek for ladder, and originally meant something similar to "crescendo". A pedant might recommend "apex", "acme", "pinnacle" or "zenith" instead.)
    • Crescendo has apparently been misused this way so much that this erroneous definition made it to the dictionary. Which arguably means it should go on the Very Pedantic page instead.
  • Exponentially more is sometimes incorrectly used to mean "much more". Mathematically speaking, "exponentially more" refers only to the difference between the rates of increase of two functions, and has a much more specific meaning than "this is growing faster than that".note  Static values can never be "exponentially more" at all. Most people who say this mean "orders of magnitude greater". An "order of magnitude" is (usually) ten timesnote , so more than one would be 100 times, 1000 times, or more.
  • A quantum is a discrete unit of something. Therefore, when James Bond finds his Quantum of Solace, he doesn't feel that much betternote . A quantum leap is a change directly from one state to another, without any defined intermediate states happening along the way. The distance leaped over does not need to be the smallest possible. Some pedants have not quite grasped this.
    • To better describe, think of the word "quantity". When you have a quantity of something, i.e. a specific number of units of it, those units are quanta. In physics, a quantum specifically means "the minimum amount of a physical entity involved in a physical interaction" (from The Other Wiki).
  • Inflammable is not an antonym to flammable; it's a synonym. The antonym is non-flammable. (Granted, this is played for comedy more often than it's used seriously...)
  • Mano a mano is a commonly used Spanish and Italian term that translate as "hand to hand"note , and means "one step at a time". It does not means "man to man"note . This is what is known in linguistics as a "false friend". Sincerely saying that you want to settle things "mano a mano" before pulling out a gun is an example.
    • Although, technically in some countries people shorten the word "hermano" (brother) to just "mano". So it could also be "brother to brother" ("hermano" or "mano" has been used as an identifier even if the person in question is not a sibling at all.)
    • Even worse is when someone says "mano y mano" which is hand and hand, making no sense in relation to fighting, and even less sense when they think they are saying "man and man". Unless...
    • It is also sometimes confused with English expression 'hand to hand combat' leading to assumption that someone proposing making something 'mano a mano' wants to take it outside and settle the matter with good, old fisticuffs.
  • The word whom is used by many as simply "who, but fancier." "Whom" is a direct or indirect object, so if you ever see someone use it otherwise ("Whom are you?" for example), they're futzing it up. As a general rule, replace the usage of "whom" with "him" and see if it still makes sense.
    • "Whom" is used to describe people something happens to, and "who" describes people who do something. You might ask about a proposed business deal, "Who affects the deal?" and "Whom does the deal affect?"
  • "Wherefore", as in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, does not mean "where", but "why"; "wherefore" is to "therefore" as "what" is to "that". Juliet was not wondering where Romeo was, but rather wondering why the man she loved had to be Romeo, one of her family's hated rivals. (Juliet's whole thing in the balcony scene is a meditation on the meaninglessness of labels.)
  • People have been told not to say "Me and Joe went to the park", but "Joe and I ...". For too many, this has morphed to a general anxiety around the word "me", so they always use and I. This is a mistake. "He saw Joe and I" is wrong (it should be "Joe and me").
    • "I" is when you are the subject, and "me" is when you're an object. This does not change if you are accompanied by someone else.
    • First person singular pronouns always go after anything else when multiple subjects or objects are involved, so "I and ..." is never correct. (This is courtesy, not grammar.)
    • If you have trouble knowing whether or not to say "I" or "me", take out the other person/thing/whatever and see if the sentence still makes sense. ("Joe and I went to the park" changes to "I went to the park", not "Me went to the park")
    • This is only the case in formal English, however. In discourse, almost all speakers will accept "Me and Joe went to the park" as an informal but grammatical variant. "Me and Joe" is somewhat more common than "Joe and me", an interesting inversion of the above "first person last" rule.
    • Similarly, "He saw Joe and I" is used consistently by some speakers of e.g. Northern Californian English. This is probably hypercorrection in avoiding "me" entirely, as noted above, which has been adopted into the dialect.
  • People who have been told that and I is not a panacea will often abuse the word myself. This is a mistake as well. Myself is reflexive — when you're both the subject and the object. "I wet myself", "I touch myself" and "I cut myself" are all okay (grammatically, that is). "Please send the memo to Joe and myself" is wrong. You mean "... to Joe and me."
    • Settling this and the above immediate point of grammatical confusion: In all cases where you list any series of individuals, ending with "and I/me", the way you settle the "I vs. me" is to eliminate everyone else from the list and isolate the "I/me". For instance, "Joseph, Victoria, and I went to the amusement park and rode the Thunderstrike," is correct because "I went to the amusement park..." would also be correct. Similarly, "Grandma Robinson regularly sent Joseph, Victoria, and me $5 checks on our birthdays," is also correct because "Grandma Robinson regularly sent me..." would also be correct.
      • There's some evidence "and myself" may be an Irish influence—Irish Gaelic (actually all the Celtic languages) has special emphatic pronouns, and Irish English often uses reflexives in a similar way (expanding on English English constructions like "he himself didn't know what he wanted" or "you yourself should do it"). A related construction, also probably from Irish English, is referring to someone (self-)important as "himself" or "herself", e.g. "I guess Herself is finally getting worried about all the dragon attacks."
  • Ah, passive is another great example. Passive is a voice, not a tense. Similarly, "indicative" and "subjunctive" are moods, not tenses.
    • Also, people tend to confuse progressive aspect with passive voice. "I was kicking the ball" is not in the passive voice. "The ball was kicked by me" is.
  • A vaccine is a weakened form of a disease that trains the body how to fight that disease. As mentioned in Magic Antidote, though, people tend to simply replace it with the word "cure." A weakened form of the disease is not going to help you if you're undergoing the eleventh hour of the full-blown symptoms. It will just make things worse.
    • A therapeutic use of a vaccine is most likely to actually be a sero-vaccine, that is a mix between the vaccine and a serum containing antibodies against whatever ails the person being treated.
    • Originally, "vaccine" specifically meant the smallpox vaccine. The vacc- prefix means "cow". It's derived directly from vaccinia — the cowpox virus — from which the inoculation was originally derived.
      • As an aside, the first person treated with Pasteur's anti-rabies vaccine very likely already had the rabies, the vaccine enabling him to fight the infection. (This is more of a quirk of rabies than anything, it has a very long incubation period meaning that you can vaccinate after exposure. The vaccine is still not a cure.)
  • Bemused has nothing to do with being "amused" — in fact it means "utterly confused."
    • Similarly, Nonplussed does not mean "aloof" or "unimpressed". It means "bewildered".
      • Or "unperturbed". Non-reacting due to confusion, or just non-reacting.
  • Slander and libel tend to be used interchangeably. Libel is defamation in the form of written words, while slander is defamation in the form of spoken words. Defamation is a catch-all that covers both. With the advent of the Internet and lower barriers to publishing, the definitions are changing, but libel is generally public postings and slander is generally private words.
    • The distinction (in the UK at least) comes from the permanence of the defamatory statement. If I said it to someone in a restaurant it's slander. If it happened to be inadvertently recorded and put in a movie soundtrack or written in an article, it's libel.
    • Mentioned in the first Spider-Man movie, as follows:
    Peter Parker: Spider-Man wasn't trying to attack the city... he was trying to save it. That's slander.
    J. Jonah Jameson: It is not. I resent that. Slander is spoken. In print, it's libel.
    • Also note for Eagleland Osmosis purposes that in all civil-law jurisdictions and many common-law ones (e.g. Virginia), slander and libel do not exist/have been merged and there is only "defamation" to cover injury arising from false statements, whether spoken or written.
  • In Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, people often say, "Spell X has been casted" or "I have casted spell X". There is no word "casted". The word "cast" covers both present and past tenses. So both, "I will cast spell X on the monster" and "I have cast spell X on the monster" are the correct forms. The same conjugation is also used regardless of the specific thing or person being cast: Some sculptures are cast, actors are cast in movies.
    • Considering MMORPGs worldwide popularity, the usage of cast is within English boundaries, more even than English itself. "Cast, cast, cast"? It seems weird to most English speakers who don't cast much else than spells on the net. But really, how do you know if a spell has been casted, or a die has been cast? How do you cast a spell anyway? It's a fantasy. Let them.
  • Another mistake frequently made in fantasy contexts is the conjugation of slay. As seen on acres of Disney World merchandise, "I slayed the dragon" is incorrect. "Slay" doesn't work like "play." Instead, it should be "I slew the dragon." Alternatively, "I have slain the dragon."
    • Lampshaded in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Willow on one occasion had difficulty coming up with the right form. Giles, surprisingly, says either slew or slayed will do.
    • You do not seen something. You saw it, or you have seen it, but you never seen it.
      • Most uses of the phrase "I seen it," especially those with enough emphasis to rule out a slurred "I've", are identifying the speaker as a hick.
  • Inbreeding means breeding among closely related individuals. Not breeding with members of another group or anything else. The confusion likely comes from the similar-sounding word "interbreeding." But in or intra refers to the inside and inter refers to the outside. note  By the same token, interbreeding should not be used to mean marrying your sister.
  • Similarly, a butler is the head of a large household of servants, dealing specifically with the wine cellars — "butler" is, in fact, a corruption of "bottler". Because Jeeves is Bertie Wooster's only servant, his first job title would be "valet", although butlers may double as valets and vice versa.
    • In one story, Jeeves' feelings are actually hurt when he is called on to buttle. That the normally unflappable "gentleman's gentleman" takes offense at something that seems trivial to us says that at one point it was a much more important distinction.
    • Additionally, valet, when referring to a gentleman's servant, is always pronounced such that it rhymes with "pallet" or "mallet". Valet prounounced in the French style, such that it rhymes with "chalet", is an attendant who parks your car.
  • While we're on the subject, claret—meaning a type of red Bordeaux wine and its associated colour—is pronounced to rhyme approximately with "merit". The word is a very old English borrowing, deriving from medieval English nobles' love of a kind of dark rosé Bordeaux called clairet, which the English eventually changed to "claret" as they began speaking English rather than French as a first language; they eventually began just calling any Bordaux "claret," and when their preference shifted from a rosé to dark red, the name didn't change. Pronouncing it in the French manner is a hyperforeignism and frowned upon by the people who actually drink it.
  • Interstellar means traveling between stars. Earth to Alpha Centauri is interstellar; Earth to Mars is interplanetary (and for heaven's sake not intergalactic). Intrastellar travel would be travel within a star; transstellar would be across one; do not try either of these without serious heat shields or cooling tech unless you want to get fried to a crispnote . If you absolutely want to keep the stellar root for some reason, you might want to try circumstellar or parastellar on for size.
  • To infer and to imply are different things. Person A may infer that Person B is stupid from the latter's misuse of words. Person A may then imply Person B's stupidity through witticism. Person B's inevitably incorrect response will be "Are you inferring that I'm stupid?" Person B is, in fact, inferring that Person A is implying that Person B is stupid, and they're right.
    • The difference has been lampshaded by Lisa Simpson and John Munch: "You infer. I imply."
    • As annoying as this can be for anyone with an interest in logic or literature, the use of infer to mean "suggest" is in fact very old; John Dryden is just the most famous writer to have used it that way. The difference between "infer" and "imply" is very useful, but it's actually wishful thinking to claim that the words have always meant different things.
    • Lampshaded and Played With in The Dresden Files TV series:
    Harry: These drakes, right, they can change shape? They're magical, immortal and all that. But you can change your appearance and you're magical and [stutters] you've been around a long, long time.
    Ancient Mai: Are you inferring something?
    Harry: Technically, I'm implying. You're inferring.
    Mai: Well, it's dangerous either way.
    Harry: You didn't answer my question.
    Mai: You didn't ask one. Which, at least, shows some common sense.
    Hugh: Just tell me, truthfully, did you send that email?
    Terri:No I didn't... and you know I didn't.
    Hugh:Sorry, are you inferring...?
    Hugh:You're implying that... it was me?
  • Disinterested is not a synonym for uninterested; it means, rather, that you are unbiased or have no vested interest.
    • Though it wouldn't be unreasonable to be uninterested because you are disinterested.
    • A good judge is disinterested; a tough audience is uninterested.
      • Ironically, the earliest recorded use of "disinterested" is in the sense that now belongs to "uninterested".
  • A light-year is a measure of distance: the distance light travels in a year. Many writers have made the mistake of using the term to describe a very long period of time. This is the one mistake guaranteed to infuriate pedants.
    • In Pokemon Red And Blue, the only trainer in the first Gym remarks, "You're light years away from beating Brock!" but then admits "Light years isn't time! It measures distance!" when beaten.
    • Of course, often what a pedant interprets as literal but incorrect time could also be figurative and correct distance; a Sufficiently Advanced Alien might well be light-years more advanced than us if you take it to be a metaphor using distance in place of quantity of technical and scientific knowledge.
      • In fact the construction "light-years ahead" is parallel to "miles ahead". Some pedants need to actually pay attention to the language they're using.
      • Literally, "to advance" is "to move forward", so if we define forward to be the direction of the alien planet, then it is most mechanically literal to interpret that as true, even if the aliens are using rocks. To interpret "advanced" as meaning the aliens have more sophisticated technology and comprehensive scientific knowledge is itself a figurative use of language.
    • Of course, it's possible to get this both right and wrong at the same time.
  • Similar to "light year", parsec is short for "parallax second", but is also a measure of distance, not time: 3.3 light years.note  "Second" in this case refers to "seconds of arc", i.e., 1/3600 of a degree = 1/21,600th of a full circle. The Millennium Falcon was able to shave distance off a smuggling run.note 
  • Conspicuous means "obvious," not "suspicious," no matter the way it sounds. Thus, if something was conspicuously absent, you are merely able to notice that it was absent; you do not necessarily have to raise an eyebrow at its absence.
    • This may come from a character saying that they need to remain "inconspicuous" while in disguise or something similar. The character wants it to not be obvious they are in a disguise and consequently not be suspicious. Since they can say, "I want to be inconspicuous," or, "I don't want to be suspicious," interchangeably in such a situation, this may be why people equate them.
    • By itself, conspicuous may not mean suspicious, but in that particular context it is implied the same as saying something is remarkably or questionably absent.
  • Fascism is a loose political ideology that combines nationalism, militarism, anti-socialism and conservatism (insofar as Fascists and Conservatives can both agree that socialism and liberalism are bad). It's also associated with anti-conservatism (because unlike conservatives they look to the future and not to the past for their ideal end-goal society), futurism, corporatism (i.e. Country-Corporation co-operation), military expansionism, and Social Darwinism. Most modern people and political parties that don't self-identify as "fascist" probably aren't fascists. Definite no-no's include communists, socialists, anarchists, feminists, environmentalists, liberals, inter/anti-nationalists, pacifists, the USA's Republican and Democratic Parties, Youth Hostels, Gandhi, women and dogs.
    • To be more precise, even people showing antisemitic or xenophobic cannot be called "fascists" indiscriminately, as the original fascism introduced in Italy by Mussolini wasn't heavy on xenophobia (fascists' aggression was usually directed towards their internal political enemies, chiefly the Catholic Trade Unions and Socialist Parties). It was German National Socialism ("Nazism" or "Hitlerism") that introduces the ideas of racial superiority.
  • Corporatism is the doctrine promoted by Mussolini that society should function as a body (Latin: corpus) in which each of the various sectors of society (government, business, labor, etc.) are treated as "organs" within the body, interdependent and working toward the betterment of the whole. The term can include big business, but is broader than a simple collusion between business and government; "corporatism" has absolutely nothing to do with the English word "corporation."
    • Relatedly, corporate personhood does not refer to letting companies vote or adopt children the way individual citizens can. It means a group of people ("a body") are treated as one person for administrative purposes. Perhaps ironically, "abolishing corporate personhood" would ban labor unions, Indian tribes petitioning for reparations, and class-action lawsuits.
  • Strictly speaking, there is no single period in prehistory called the Stone Age. The term originates from a listing of the three stages of a prehistoric society: Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. In the most literal sense of the term, cowboys fought members of the Stone Age in the Wild Wild West; heck, there were still "Stone Age" people living in isolated parts of the world by the time The Flintstones first went on air. The term is usually limited to Eurasian cultures, which complicates things.
    • Strictly speaking, humanity as a whole had a single "Stone Age" (during which no sub-group had advanced beyond stone tools), after which the "Stone Age" becomes a term with more limited application, and terms such as "Bronze Age" began to apply as soon as one group use bronze for this purpose, even though they were the only ones. Likewise, the Stone Age would have begun with the first evidence of stone tools rather than the point at which stone tools become ubiquitous. Arguing otherwise would be akin to stating that we don't really live in the Space Age because most people alive right now have never ventured into space.
    • Similarly, prehistoric does not necessarily mean ancient. "History" is "the study of what ancient people wrote about themselves," so for something to count as prehistoric, it merely has to predate the invention of writing (which was about 3500 BC). For this reason, there still exists a number of societies today which count as "prehistoric".
    • Also, the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age were more a reference to the archaeology of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
  • Yea is an an archaic version of "yes" (sometimes still used in very formal context where one is asked to vote "yea" or "nay"). It is not an alternative spelling of "yeah", and is pronounced differently.
    • And cartoonists often confuse it with "Yay!", which sounds the same but is a different word, an interjection expressing delight or enthusiasm. ("Yay/Yea, we won the game!")
    • This is very probably simple coincidence due to onomatopoeia. The real instance of this trope would be those who misinterpret the older usage as being the newer usage.
  • Object (the noun acted on by the verb) and subject (the noun doing the verbing) are opposites.
  • People use the word vagina to describe both a woman's vulva (external genitalia) and vagina (internal genitalia). Even the author of The Vagina Monologues.
  • Consequences. It's commonly used to mean the negative results of an action; the opposite of a reward or benefit. Its actual definition is all results of an action, positive and negative.
  • Infamous is frequently used to mean "very famous," which is far from correct. While it is not the opposite of fame (that would be obscurity), it actually means having a very bad reputation, as in "the infamous Jack the Ripper." Don't make the mistake that the ¡Three Amigos! did when you're asked to meet someone infamous.
    • Confusion may also arise from: 1) Deliberately-ambiguous sarcastic use and/or 2) the Jerry Springer effect, i.e. "I want my 15 minutes no matter what I have to do to get it".
    • As described above, Infamous is not an antonym of famous. Just wanted to clear it out: if something is infamous, it actually has to have at least some fame.
    • It is interesting, because original meaning of this word, now mostly forgotten, meant something different. Infamy was a form of punishment technically stripping the convicted of any legal protection (in feudal world 'no fame' meant 'no one heard of him and no one will defend him'). Of course, the infamous had nothing left to lose, so they often were getting infamous in modern sense of this word.
  • For another nice self-referencing example, compare the definition of trope in any reputable dictionary to the one used on this site. (For the sake of pedantry, assume the other wiki is not reputable.)
    • Merriam-Webster agrees with us!
  • Good vs Well. Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. You look good, because good is describing you. You see well, because well is describing how you see. (You can look well, but in that cause 'well' is being used as measure of health, i.e. the opposite of 'You look ill'.)
    • You can also correctly use 'look well' for 'look carefully', or 'look skillfully'. Similarly, the above could correctly describe a product that as part of its function interprets visual data. (A robot or something; if it's solely a camera, then its working is synonymous with its looking, and so it's still incorrect.)
    • In 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan even corrected the resident Harvard grad in the first episode: "No, Superman does good. You do well."
  • Some people, including many English teachers, insist that the statement I feel bad is only correct if it is used to mean that the speaker's sense of touch is functioning improperly, and the proper way to express that one is suffering is to say "I feel badly." This is totally incorrect, and in fact, the reverse is true: in the first case, "bad" is a predicate adjective modifying "I" and linked to it by the linking verb "feel," whereas in the second case, "badly" is an adverb modifying the action verb "feel," and describes how one's sense of touch is functioning. Likewise, the statement "I feel good" is a completely correct response to the question "How are you?", since "good" is, again, a predicate adjective modifying "I"; pedants who insist that one say "I feel well" are incorrect, although that statement is also grammatically correct.
    • As a rule, "feel" (in the sense of feeling a certain way), "look" (in the sense of looking a certain way, not looking at something), "sound", "smell", "taste" and all forms of "to be" do not take adverbs, for the reasons given above.
    • Like "no split infinitives," this is another example of a Latin rule being shoehorned into English. In Latin and Romance languages, "good" and "bad" are defining characteristics, akin to "saintly" and "evil" - to say that one is feeling evil today is a far cry from being tired. Instead, "I feel well" or "I feel unwell" (or a more specific feeling) are the typical answers in those languages. In English those words do dual duty as vague placeholders and as strong characteristics.
    • This is possibly the best single example on the page that exemplifies the natural language problem, as well as why Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness is sometimes quite justified. (i.e. "I feel bad." becoming "I feel less healthful." or "My epidermis is less sensate.") It's also how someone that Will Not Tell a Lie can also be a Consummate Liar through clever use of near synonyms, logical misdirection, etc.
  • Literally is often used as a generic intensifier, a "smarter-sounding" substitute for "really" or similar. The irony is that the usage is most often figurative, when it actually means "not figuratively." Example of misuse: "It was literally a slaughter!" in reference to a sporting event, assuming said sport isn't a Blood Sport. See Literal Metaphor.note 
    • Really suffers from a similar problem.
      • The cycle of words becoming meaningless intensifiers is ancient: "Very" comes from "verily", which means "truthfully."
    • Then there are the people who correct this by saying "You mean 'figuratively'," as in this xkcd. That's only sort of right, as inserting that word into the sentence wouldn't achieve the desired effect. (As said above, it should be some word already degraded into an intensifier like "really".)
    • Keep track of the rampant misuse of the word "literally" here. At least we hope phrases such as "They LITERALLY scared the shit out of us!" are misusing the term.
  • Peruse means "to read thoroughly", not "to skim."
  • Scan has been similarly diluted in common usage, perhaps because computers scan things so quickly.
    • In language teaching, both scan and skim refer to quick-reading techniques: scanning is quickly reading through a text to find a particular piece of information, whereas skimming means quickly reading through a text to catch the general gist.
  • Incredulous means "not believing," not "incredible." If someone sees something incredible, then they can be incredulous.
    • It helps to think of it this way: the base of the two words is 'credible' (meaning 'can be believed') and the negation prefix 'in'. If something is 'incredible', it is not believable, or unbelievable (similar to 'fantastical'. If you are being 'incredulous', you are being the opposite of credulous (which means 'easily believing'), not treating something with credulity, or you don't believe it.
    • In The Accidental Tourist, it's pointed out that lacking credence is the proper use of the word.
  • The difference between "rob" and "steal": You rob a person when you steal their property.
    • Technically, robbery is defined more narrowly than this: it's taking someone's goods by threat of violence. But yes, it's never correct to say "My wallet got robbed" or "He robbed my wallet", but "I was robbed of my wallet" is correct.
      • If someone solely stole the money without stealing the wallet itself, one could argue that the wallet was robbed of its money. This would also apply if the victim were a self-aware wallet.
    • "Burglary" is a different kind of theft from "Robbery". If you leave your wallet at home, and when you get back, discover that it was stolen, you've been burgled. Or "burglarized" if you're in the United States.
      • Legally speaking, burglary doesn't have to involve stealing (larceny and theft cover those). Burglary is the entrance of a building with the intent to commit a crime therein. You don't even have to actually complete the act you entered the building to do. If Alice enters Bob's house with the intent to murder Bob (or steal from him, assault him, or write a bad check while sitting on his couch), she has committed burglary, whether or not she actually does the deed. In some areas, even if you change your mind about committing the crime once your inside, you can still be on the hook for burglary. As a result, burglary is a favorite of prosecutors as it can be added as a charge to many different acts. The case law of what constitutes "building" and "entry" can get a little silly.
      • That depends on where you are. Where I live, legally speaking, Robbery is theft by force or threat of force (a mugger for example), Burglary is illegally entering a building or the interior of a personal vehicle (what is "illegally" is a longer story, but is MOSTLY self explanatory) with intent to steal, and stealing something from a location you have a legal right to be in (such as a store during normal operational hours, or a friends house if they invite you over, or even just a public park) without force or threat is Larceny.
  • The term "Assault and Battery" exists because the two represent different parts of the same act. Assault is a a threat which suggests that "immediate harmful contact" will occur; battery occurs upon contact. Swinging a bat at somebody is assault. Hitting somebody with a bat is battery. Consequently, the latter usually depends on the former, except when the threat is unknown until contact. Generally, the contact doesn't have to be violent; the rule is that any unwelcome touching is battery (although as a practical matter you have to meet a certain threshold in order to get the authorities to prosecute). An unwanted pie in the face or kiss on the cheek constitutes assault and battery; thus some statutes on sexual assault actually call it "sexual battery" on the theory that you're punishing the touching, not the threat.
    • Different jurisdictions have different definitions. Example: what the MPC and the above call "Battery" is called "Assault" in Delaware, and what the above calls "Assault" is named "Menacing".
    • Bear in mind that both assault and battery are not only crimes, they are also civil torts in most common-law jurisdictions. This means that you can be prosecuted by the state and sued for damages by the victim for one act. Battery suits often address things that the state just lets slip; in one case frequently used in law schools (Garratt v. Dailey), an old woman successfully sued a five-year-old boy for $11,000 (in 1952 money!) after she got a hip fracture when he moved a chair she was trying to sit in.
  • "Affect" and "effect": In general terms, "effect" is usually a noun and "affect" is usually a verb. However, there are actually five words there, not two.
    • af-FECT (v) - To have influence on. "The heavy rains affected the water level."
    • af-FECT (v) - To pretend, often to pretend to have a degree of sophistication. "At the wine club, Bob affected a fake French accent to be a douche."
      • This is also the base word of "affectation," or a behavior adopted to evoke that air of sophistication. "Even though Bob is from America, he crosses his 7s as an affectation."
    • AF-fect (n) - Usually only used in psychology circles, and it's basically a term for an emotional response.
    • Effect (n) - A consequence or result of something. "The effect of all the heavy rain was flooding."
    • Effect (v) - To create a change. "Due to the flooding, the city effected changes in flood channel construction."
    • The things you carry on your person (in your purse or pockets) are your "personal effects"
  • "I could care less" is wrong. The phrase you're looking for is "I couldn't care less"; by using the wrong phrase, you're saying that you do care. This one is distressingly common, to the point that people even try to defend the use of "could care less" or insist that it's a standard or alternate use in their particular regions.
  • Despite popular claims, in English the word "America" refers to a country, not a continent. Misuse of this one (e.g. claims that America is a continent, not a country) has been increasingly common among Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Latin Americans who are also fluent in English (and anyone who likes bullying Americans). See, in the Anglosphere (as well as most of Asia and Western Europe), there is no one single continent called America. These regions of the world use a seven-continent geographic model, which includes two continents named North America and South America. Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries use a different geographical model in which these two continents are considered one single continent called "America," but in English, the correct term for grouping North and South America together is the Americas.note 
    • Also, for Argentinians fluent in English, take special note—North America in English refers to the continent of North America, not the United States. (In Argentinean Spanish, Norteamericano is a gentilic for the United States.)
    • Also, for everyone: Mexico is part of North America, not Central or South America. "North American" and "Anglophone" are not interchangeable, and that's true even without Canadian bilingualism getting involved.
  • Off the northwestern coast of Europe are the British Isles, a collection of two large and many small islands, the largest of which is (Great) Britain and the second largest of which is Ireland. Together they contain two countries: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland (called the "Republic of Ireland" to differentiate it from the island, of which it covers about five-sixths.) The United Kingdom is a country composed of four constituent countries: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Cornwall is a politically united but culturally distinct area within England. There also exists the Isle of Man, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and the Bailiwick of Jersey, which are not part of the United Kingdom, but which have its Queen as their sovereign and which the UK provides for the military defence thereof. It is confusing but please, for your own safety, NEVER use England to refer to anything besides the land south of the River Tweed and east of the Rivers Vyrnwy and Tamar (Cornwall may be a more debated case but the Cornish will like you for it).
    • The term "British Isles" is also disputed by many Irish people, who object to the term "British", given its usual usage as "of or pertaining to Great Britain". The governments of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland both avoid using the term, as do most Irish people, but it is a common term in Great Britain, where it is seen as an entirely neutral, geographic term, akin to "Indian Subcontinent" or "North America".
      • Well the British Government uses it, just not in international documents. The neutral term often used is Islands of the North Atlantic (IONA). (This does, mind, include the islands of Faeroe, which are really quite un-British, being ruled by Denmark and speaking their own North Germanic language and all...)
      • Not to be confused with the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland.
      • At least in the travel industry, the "Indian Subcontinent" is now the "South Asian Subcontinent".
    • Also, it's standard practice to refer the UK as "Britain", even though Northern Ireland is part of the former but not the latter.
    • Also, a person from Scotland is "a Scot"; many people from Scotland are "Scots." You may describe their nationality and their institutions as "Scottish" (so it's perfectly to say "my friend is Scottish" in the same way that one would say "my friend is English"), but only in that sense.
      • 'Scottish' is an adjective qualifying someone or something from Scotland. 'Scot' is a noun. While it's preferable to refer to people from Scotland as "the Scots" rather than "the Scottish"note , it is not wrong to refer to someone as Scottish by way of an adjective. On that note, the adjective is indeed 'Scottish'. Don't use the adjective 'Scotch' outside of Scotch whisky, Scotch eggs or Scotch pies.note 
      • And while we're at it, place-name adjectives like "Parisian" or "Viennese" do not simply mean "from Paris" or "from Vienna", but rather "typical or characteristic of the place in question". Thus, you can have a Viennese café in London (i.e. it embodies characteristics commonly associated with Vienna), but "Le Monde" is a "Paris newspaper" (i.e. a newspaper based in Paris).
    • These rules similarly apply to people. Hugh Laurie was born in England, Ewan McGregor in Scotland, and Catherine Zeta Jones in Wales. All three are Britishnote , but only Laurie is English. Pierce Brosnan is neither (he's Irish).
      • And just to make things more complicated—people from most of the British Isles wince at the expression 'British accent'. Usually because they know what foreigners mean by that, and resent the implication that's how they sound. 'English accent' is marginally better (not that people from much of England will take kindly to being told 'all British accents sound posh and educated to me...', as they'll still feel that their existence is being denied and aren't always as pleased as you'd think to be told they sound 'classy', but it narrows the offence a little.)
    • The Isle of Man is not part of England, Scotland or even the UK; it's a separate dependency of the British Crown. The Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey (known collectively as the Channel Islands) are the other two Crown Dependencies. ("Bailiwick" being an archaic term meaning the area under the jurisdiction of a bailiff — a bailiff being a sheriff's appointee, so a bailiwick would have been a part of a shire). There are also 13 British overseas territories, and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (both on Cyprus).
    • On that note, now you know where the idiomatic expression bailiwick got its meaning: it means an area specific to one's jurisdiction (department, profession, area of expertise): "not my bailiwick".
  • Immoral is knowing it's wrong and doing it anyway; amoral is, generally, not having a sense of right or wrong in the first place. Gravity and a large rock are amoral; my dropping a large rock on your head to kill you is immoral (unless, perhaps, I'm mentally disturbed in such a way that I'm incapable of making moral judgments). Furthermore, nonmoral deals with things that are not a question of morality, such as the choice between chocolate or vanilla ice cream. note 
  • Non-zero-sum does not mean "win-win" or "opportunity to cooperate." It refers to some valuable resources (money, time, oil, wood, etc.) being permanently lost or gained during the event. A zero-sum game merely means that everything the participants begin with is redistributed. Non-zero-sum games can easily be lose-lose instead of win-win, and, while the Prisoner's Dilemma and a few other well-known non-zero-sum games are cooperative, others, such as the dollar auction, are normally non-cooperative.
    • Whether something is win-win vs. lose-lose or cooperative vs non-cooperative is usually a function of the players' choices, not of the game itself. If the players in a dollar auction agree beforehand that only one person will bid, and that the profits will be shared equally, that is a cooperative/win-win strategy. Some games can be structured to always be lose-lose, but aren't as interesting to study.
      • If by "win" one means "end with more than one started" and by "lose" one means "end with less than one started", it is also not a requirement that someone must win and someone must lose in a zero-sum game; if everyone ends with exactly as much as each one respectively had at the start, it is still a zero-sum game.
    • Also, usually game theorists do not use "zero sum game" but "constant sum game". That's partly for ease of mathematics behind it, but it also can mean that all players lose or win if compared to the status quo before the game. It is just that each win of one side is countered by a loss of equal amount on the other side (and let's not start about more-than-two-player games). Also in many to most games meta gaming (e.g. side payments outside of the game itself to counter asymmetric payouts in a win-win situation) is not considered, thus not every non-zero-sum means opportunity to collaborate.
  • Stupid and ignorant are not interchangeable: a stupid person lacks intelligence, an ignorant person lacks knowledge. So, if someone crosses a street on a red light because they didn't know that red means "stop", they're ignorant. If they cross a street despite seeing a car coming at 50 mph and get hit, they're stupid.
    • Lampshaded in the Simpsons episode "The Way We Was":
    Homer: Wait a minute. That word you keep calling me?
    Artie: Ignoramus?
    Homer: Ignoramus! It means I'm stupid, doesn't it?
    Artie: There is a difference between ignorance and stupidity.
    Homer: Not to me there isn't, you... ignoramus!
    • If someone misuses the words on this page, they're ignorant, but not necessarily stupid.
    • "Ignorant" also does not mean "belligerent" or "impolite"
    • Perhaps a better example of the difference between intelligence and knowledge: knowing what the Pythagorean theorem is and what it's used for takes knowledge; being able to work out the equation mentally requires intelligence.
    • Once you've read the Pythagorean theorem, understanding what it means would require intelligence.
    • If someone doesn't know that a tomato is a fruit, they're ignorant. If they know it's a fruit, so they put it in fruit salad, then they are stupid.
    • Interestingly enough, idiot can be interchangeable with ignorant given its root in a Greek word for someone who does not take part in the affairs of his city, someone who ignores those affairs.
    • You could also say that since no human is omniscient (as far as we know) everybody is ignorant about something. On the other hand, not everybody is stupid.
  • On that note, stupid originally meant numbed or stunned, hence the phrase "He was struck stupid."
  • On most Animal Planet documentaries, an astonishing amount of people say that they now appreciate wildlife and the danger that wild animals can cause after getting attacked. They probably mean that they now respect wildlife after such incidents. A lot of people can appreciate the beauty of a wolf , but not everyone respects (or even knows!) that the wolf can tear your throat out if he thinks you're a threat or his next meal. Surprisingly enough, children and teenagers use "respect" more often than adults.
  • Née means "born". It does not mean "formerly known as" or "otherwise known as" or even "maiden name" except in the context that a woman's maiden name is generally her birth name. If a woman is born as Mary Smith, marries and changes her name to Mary Robinson, then divorces, remarries, and changes her name to Mary Jones, it would be correct to say "Mary Jones, née Smith"; it would not be correct to say "Mary Jones, née Robinson."
    • Secondly, "née" is feminine. If a man changes his name, it's (e.g. "Malcolm X, né Little").
    • For transsexuals, as a general rule of thumb, you use the gender-specific words of the gender they identify as, rather than their genotype, if you are trying to be polite to them. So for example if you know a FtM, it is "He" "Him" "né" etc.
  • Similarly, French-derived adjectives should retain their French masculine-feminine endings. A woman with flaxen hair is blonde, but a man is blond. More obscurely, and only in English, a man with dark hair is not a brunette but a brunet. It would all be pronounced the same in English, though, where articles don't have gender.
    • In French, "brunette" carries the literal meaning of "little brown-/black-haired girl." A woman who is dark-haired is "brune", and a dark-haired man is "brun". The nouns, "une brune" and "un brun" can also be used, especially with adjectives ("une jolienote  brune"/"un beaunote  brun"). "Blondinette" (blond-haired girl) is an endearment. There is no male equivalent for "brunette".
    • Also, when one is engaged to be married, the proper word depends on the person's gender: a man is a fiancé, whereas a woman is a fiancée. As with other French-derived terms, they may be pronounced exactly the same, but their gender matters.
    • Another place where people often drop the gender declension in English is for words like aviator. Saying "female aviator" is incorrect, the term is "aviatrix." Same with "male dominatrix." It's just "dominator."
  • People keep using pragmatic to describe someone who appears to be thinking quite ideally, or something along the lines of that. This is used frequently to describe politicians during political campaigns. The word means "of or pertaining to a practical point of view or practical considerations." In a related sense, pragmatism is a "character or conduct that emphasizes practicality." So depending on the case, one may be correct or not.
  • If you're waiting on someone, then you're performing the job of a waiter or servant. If you're looking at your watch wondering where the hell they are, you're waiting for them.
    • Dialect difference. Like how people from parts of the eastern US—especially New York City—say "on line for tickets" instead of "in line for tickets". Slight differences between preposition use are a common dialect variation, especially in Germanic languages (anyone who took high-school German probably read that word "preposition" and began to weep softly, like a Shell-Shocked Senior).
      • Trust me, we Germans aren't happy with English prepositions either.
  • A narcotic is any sedative defined as drug with morphine-like effects (to quote The Other Wiki). Most people use it as an umbrella term to include all illicit drugs.
    • The term was corrupted as soon as the stimulant cocaine was classified as a narcotic in US federal law (the original Harrison Narcotics Act was written to deal with opium trafficking), so for legal purposes it is - despite being a stimulant.
  • Argumentum ad hominem is (to quote The Other Wiki) "an argument which links the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise." It's not just a fancy word for a personal attack. "You suck, therefore your argument is false" is ad hominem. "You suck" on its own isn't, neither is "your argument is false, therefore you suck,"note  nor is "Your argument is false and you suck." It's certainly rude, but not fallacious.
    • In many cases, the "therefore your argument is false" part is left implied. The intent is still to discredit the advocate rather than (probably more difficult) rebuttal of the premise; that the link is not explicitly stated doesn't necessarily mean it isn't ad hominem - if the attack is trying to bring down the premise, it is. If the person being attacked is not advocating anything, though (or if anything they might be advocating has nothing to do with the attack), it isn't ad hominem - just a personal attack.
  • Semitic doesn't necessarily mean Jewish. It means of Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Hebrew, and/or Phoenician ancestry.note  On the other hand, the terms anti-Semitic, anti-Semitism, and anti-Semite typically only refer to hatred of Jews; these words were coined in 19th century Europe, during the era of "scientific racism" which claimed that all apparent religious and cultural conflicts of Jews and (Christian) Europeans were actually born of conflict between Semitic and "Aryan" races,note  and the terminology has stuck ever since.
    • Contrast with the lesser-known word anti-Judaism, which refers specifically to opposition to the Jewish religion, and not to Jews as a nation, race, tribe, or ethnicity. Then there is anti-Zionism, which specifically refers to opposition to the political nation-state of Israel and/or Jewish Nationalism in general (some of the most vocal anti-Zionists are Haredi Jews, some of whom have committed violence in the name of their position).
      • Both anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism can, of course, be covers for anti-Semitism. Even without deliberate dishonesty, the three tend to shade into each other, especially given how tightly interwoven Jewish religion and nationalism are to the rest of Jewish identity (it's similarly difficult to distinguish opposition to Hinduism from opposition to Indian nationalism or hatred of Indians).
  • Populist has done a complete turnaround of meaning since the 1890s. Political scientist David Nolan once used it as roughly a synonym for socialist. Actually, while the Populist (or People's) Party of the 1890s that thrived in much of the western and southern United States was more anti-"big business" than anti-business generally, it did call for some reforms that are usually thought of as socialistic (such as the nationalization of particularly lucrative industries). Nowadays, the word has been shorn of almost all economic connotations. To be a populist is to bear resentment against society's elites, who need not necessarily be "the rich." Class is still a factor to some extent, but differing educational levels and the contentious nature of American popular culture also enter into the equation.
    • The broadest definition of populism is opposition to the elite, whatever "elite" may mean at the moment. As such, it's perfectly correct to use it for the political movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, marked for their socialist tendancies and dismantling of corporate giants, as it is to use it for the current anti-intellectualist bent in the American social and political landscape.
      • Populist is not about opposition to the elite but about favouring and aiming efforts at the greater populace. To be a populist is to promote oneself to be liked by the majority, the non-elite, if they happen to like the elite it would be populist not to go against the elite...
      • To complicate matters further, populist may also refer to politicians who aim their efforts on any majority, thus changing sides and agendas to maximize their support, not to represent any group in particulat. It is more or less political equivalent to 'opportunist'.
  • Objective (as in the opposite of Subjective), especially when used with the word review (as in a critical review). There is no such thing as an objective review. A review, by definition, is subjective. A consensus may be derived from many reviews, but there will never be a definitive, objective review. An actually objective review would look something like this review Final Fantasy XIII by Jim Sterling.
    • The word one should use when speaking about review that is as unbiased as possible and takes into account multiple point of views is 'intersubjective'.
  • The use of a somewhat archaic word has clouded its meaning, but nibbling on hors d'oeuvres serves to whet one's appetite, not wet it. Whet means "to sharpen," as seen in the term whetstone, a stone used for sharpening knives—if something is sharpening your appetite, it's leaving you hungry for more, not dampening (or wetting) your enthusiasm. So, "whetting your appetite for destruction" would mean starting small as a prelude to becoming more destructive, not sating the urge altogether.
  • There are so many examples of psychological and psychiatric terms that are misused that it almost warrants its own page. To start with:
  • Psychotic: It does not mean "going around and killing people for no reason"; someone who does that is just homicidal. Psychosis is a loss of touch with reality, characterized by disorganised thinking, delusions, and sometimes (but not always) auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations. While people with psychosis can be homicidal, it is extremely rare (violence by psychotics is more usually related to paranoid or other delusions).
  • Psychopath/Sociopath: They are usually not murderers; in fact, many successful CEOs, lawyers, and politicians are psychopaths or sociopaths. Psychopathy and sociopathy both mean lack of a conscience, a limited emotional range, and difficulty in forming significant relationships. They also often lack impulse control. Both psychopaths and sociopaths can be classed as having antisocial personality disorder, though not all people with the disorder are psychopaths or sociopaths. Psychopathy and sociopathy are typically held to be synonyms under the umbrella of antisocial personality disorder (which is the term the DSM-IV uses that includes psychopaths and sociopaths), and when a distinction is made it has nothing to do with the origins of the disorder, since the origins are not definitely known. The typical distinction is that sociopaths have a more normal temperament and are better able to adapt to societal norms. While statistically speaking murderers are likely to be psychopaths or sociopaths, psychopaths and sociopaths are not very likely to be murderers.
    • In the pilot of Sherlock, Holmes objects to being called a psychopath, preferring to be recognized as a "highly functional sociopath."
      • "High-functioning sociopath." "Highly functional" is a very common misquote; the actual line follows the same pattern as high-functioning autism or high-functioning alcoholism, etc., denoting a person who might have some disorder but is more capable than is common among those who have that disorder. It is not clear what Sherlock actually meant by that statement, since sociopaths follow a "normal" (as in, not distinct from the wider population) distribution curve.
  • Antisocial: Sometimes used to mean someone who dislikes or fears socializing. In the psychological sense, it doesn't mean that at all. Antisocial attitudes or behaviors are against society, from extreme acts like murder to more minor transgressions like simply being a manipulative, self-centered Jerkass. Someone who fears interacting with other people should be said to be suffering from social phobia, not "antisocial" tendencies. As a matter of fact, social phobia is an outdated term, and is usually now called "social anxiety disorder." In other words, people who are antisocial are hostile — not merely indifferent — towards society.
    • "Antisocial" is also used to denote "rebellious" individuals actively fighting (not necessarily by violence, also by dissent or passive-aggressive behavior) any authority and are incapable of operating under external influence.
    • An increasingly more popular and accurate term for the above disorder is agoraphobia, from the ancient Greek term for "fear of the marketplace." But to be honest, I've always understood that agoraphobia is fear of the entire outside world, not just the "social" parts of it. Thus, an agoraphobe would be just as afraid of being lost in a forest or a desert as they were of crowds.
      • It makes more sense once you know that 'agora' in this case is what the Romans called the 'forum', rather than your run-of-the-mill farmers' market.
    • Agoraphobia is more specifically a fear of being unable to escape from whatever situation you're in (sometimes amended to include 'without severe embarrassment'), rather than the situation itself. In the above examples, the phobic response would be due to the fear of never escaping the forest, or being lost in the desert forever. Being in a busy place (e.g. a football crowd) could count if you couldn't leave your set without making a huge scene.
    • Perhaps more appropriate word would be "asocial", and it is sometimes used, though it implies lack of interest in social interaction while not fear of it.
      • This is exactly the term used in psychological parlance to describe people avoiding social situations due to social phobias, egomania, extreme introversion or any other factor.
    • Agoraphobia is a disorder more focused on the area and getting to safety (without embarrassing yourself) if needed and usually has to do with panic attacks or some of the symptoms of them. A fear focused on actual people or socializing is called social phobia or social anxiety disorder (and is much more severe than shyness so should not be used lightly despite its commonness — the most common mental disorder in adults other than substance abuse or depression, which is saying something). The best replacement for "antisocial" is "avoidant" — avoidant personality disorder is associated with extreme social phobia. "Asocial", as pointed out above, is different. Most shy/socially anxious/avoidant people would love to be social if they weren't anxious about it. There are people who simply do not like to be around other people without being either avoidant or antisocial; these are asocial. "Asocial", however, may look like a typo in writing "antisocial" to a reader.
    • On a related note, introversion is not being antisocial; being introverted is simply preferring solitary activities to social activities.
  • Manic-depression is more properly known as bipolar disorder, and does not mean "severe depression" or "wild mood swings;" the highs and lows last for days or weeks at a time. Neither one is a catch-all for "crazy ex." (See borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic disorders for what most people think of as "crazy ex syndrome.")
    • Marvin the Paranoid Android is a manically depressed robot, not manic-depressive robot, which is true - he's enthusiastically depressed.
    • Also, bipolar is an adjective, not a noun. It's either "my friend is bipolar" or "my friend has bipolar disorder," not "my friend has bipolar."
    • And it doesn't have anything to do with tsunderes, no matter what certain fansubs say.
  • On the subject of borderline, saying someone is borderline does not mean they're on the cusp of having a personality disorder; it means they do have one. Borderline is a name for a very specific pattern of behaviour involving emotional instability, poor self-image, impulsiveness, and black-and-white thinking (what psychologists call "splitting"), as well as a fear of abandonment. The name is only used because of historical reasons which are too complex to get into here.
  • Depression is yet another psychological term (seeing a trend here?) that's casually thrown around but has a different meaning in a medical or therapeutic context. Depression is not just sadness, but much more persistent and disabling, and includes many other mood changes and physical symptoms like: anhedonia (loss of the ability to feel pleasure), changes in sleep and eating habits (either much less or much more than usual), and a lack of energy and motivation.
  • OCD is often thought of as the concept of a Neat Freak taken to the extreme. That's because the most visible sign of it is the rituals that people who have OCD do (counting, checking, hand-washing, climbing stairs and so on). The reason it's called obsessive-compulsive disorder is because people with it have certain obsessive thoughts that are highly distressing and which they cannot get rid of (things like fears of their entire family dying, or their house burning down, or accidentally harming a baby). The compulsions they have are a coping mechanism of sorts - performing these rituals helps the obsessions go away, but only temporarily. To describe someone as "kind of OCD (adj.)" because they like order and cleanliness is not even close to reality.
  • Chronic does not mean "severe". It means "recurring/habitual" and/or "happening for a long time." Contrast acute, which means "rapid onset". Too many people associate "acute" with "small" due to its meaning in geometry.
    • Also an illness being acute does not necessarily mean that it is serious, it only means that full set of symptoms display themselves quickly (a papercut is acute). So calling a disease Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is not tautological.
  • Paranoia and paranoid are a particularly egregious case. Paranoia is a full-blown psychosis, not just thinking people are out to get you. However, someone who really was diagnosed with paranoia would be paranoiac (literally out of his mind), not paranoid, which denotes a neurotic paranoid state.
    • This is lampshaded in the movie version of The Caine Mutiny, where Maryk admits that until Keefer talked to him, "I didn't even know the difference between paranoid and paranoia."
  • Schizophrenia does not involve multiple personalities. Multiple personalities are a form of dissociation known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It is an extremely rare diagnosis, so rare that its existence is very hotly debated. In addition, one of the major prerequisites is that the separate personalities are usually not aware of each other—something that is often overlooked in both real life and the media, as the protagonist in United States Of Tara was quick to point out.
    • Especially confusing for those who like their Greek roots, because 'Schizophrenia' literally means "split mind".
      • The full etymology for schizophrenia is skhizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-; "mind, intelligence") not the same thing as personality.
    • If we wanted to do right by the etymologists we should switch from Schneider's 'schizophrenia' name for schizophrenia back to Emil Kraepelin's 'dementia praecox'.
      • Dementia praecox wouldn't work though because it means "precocious madness", so a degenerative disease of young people. However, schizophrenia isn't degenerative like dementia is, and it's treatable, whereas Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia aren't really and treatments for them are mostly palliative. Also, schizophrenia does most often manifest for the first time in young adulthood (late teens to early twenties) but it can develop at any age, including in the elderly.
    • The confusion is likely from some schizophrenics having auditory/visual hallucinations and sometimes speaking back to them, giving the illusion to some people that another "personality" is speaking to the schizophrenic.
      • If psychology texts are reliable, the confusion is the above misinterpretation of "intelligence" as "personality", plus failure to understand that "divided" in this instance means something closer to "shattered" than it does to "split".
    • The "split" portion of the word actually refers to a divergence of the mind from reality, not that it's split internally.
    • The word schizoid, which is a personality disorder, does use this root to mean "cut off (from other people)". But this is a very different thing than schizophrenia.
    • If a person has anorexia, then she is an anorectic or she is anorexic. She is not an anorexic, nor is she anorectic. "Anorectic" is a noun; "anorexic" is an adjective.
      • In strict medical terms, anorexia refers generally to loss of appetite as a symptom, the psychiatric disorder involving distorted body image and fear of weight gain is anorexia nervosa.
  • The words psychologist and psychiatrist are often confused. A psychologist is someone who has an advanced degree in psychology (normally a doctorate or at least a master's) and does psychotherapy and psychological testing. They can diagnose people, but can't prescribe medication (except in a few jurisdictions) or order medical imaging. A psychiatrist, on the other hand, is a medical doctor who specializes in psychological disorders and they can do these things because of their broader scope of practice. Psychologists study nothing but psychology in their training; psychiatrists have to learn about other branches of medicine first before specializing in it.
  • Quean does not mean, as Brian Jacques claimed in interviews about The Sable Quean, "wicked woman". Nor, as some readers might assume, does it mean "queen". It means "prostitute" or "promiscuous woman". Then again, this is probably actually a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • To be bereft of something does not just mean to be without something. It means to be without something that you previously had.
  • Peasant is not a general term for a poor person. A peasant is a tenant farmer, a free laborer who rents a farm and works it himself. The hierarchy is: slave (who is owned property that can be bought and sold), serf (has some rights, but is required to work his lord's land and give the lord a portion of the harvest), sharecropper (a free man who works on someone else's land and pays the landowner a portion of the crop) peasant, crofter (a farmer who owns his own house, but still rents land to farm), yeoman (owns enough land to support a family), gentleman (owns enough farmland to support himself by renting it out). Admittedly, a lot of this depends on time period and the distinctions can be blurred; for instance, consider someone who rents a piece of land and works it himself but has agreed to pay the rent by sending the landlord crops equivalent in market value to the rent; is this person a sharecropper or a peasant?note  To no small degree this depends on whether he's in medieval England or the post-Civil War American South. Poor farmers can loosely be called "the peasantry," but that's about it.
    • Note that Translation Convention can introduce confusion in dealing with non-English-speaking societies. Everything after "peasant" is often called the same thing in many other languages (because "doesn't work for someone else" is a decisive characteristic). Many other European languages also often use their cognates for "peasant" in senses closer to English's "crofter" and "yeoman" (a French peasant could be a full-blown landowner, for example, or a "métayer", a sharecropper).
  • Concerning is often deployed as meaning an area of much concern rather than its actual meaning, regarding. The real word to use in such an instance is disconcerting.
  • A Chaingun is a single-barrel weapon with an electrically driven bolt operated with a chain. It is not a rotary gun. This comes from Doom misusing the term; usually, the reasoning for the mistake is that the latter is fed with a "chain" (ie a belt) of ammunition, or that the barrel group is driven by a chain.
    • More accurately still, a "Chain Gun" is the specific model of weapon used on many US and NATO aircraft. Any autoloading (generally fully automatic) weapon larger than a machinegun is called an "autocannon" regardless of mechanism. A multi-barrelled weapon in this class that rotates is called a "Rotary Autocannon." A single-barreled weapon that uses a rotating loading mechanism is a "Revolver Autocannon". The most accurate name for Doom's "chaingun" would be "Rotary Submachine Gun", as it uses pistol ammunition.
  • "Decapitated head" is paradoxical: to decapitate someone is to behead him. Cutting a head off of itself is...well...inconceivable. A body can be decapitated; a better adjective for a head on its own is severed. (Disembodied usually means 'intangible'.)
  • Related: "decapacitate" is a rarely-used word that means to reduce someone or something's capacity for action, essentially a milder version of "incapacitate." It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the head; in fact, decapitating someone is far more likely to incapacitate them (by killing them) than decapacitate them.
  • Differential is both a noun and an adjective, but in the noun form, it is a mechanical device used for combining torque from different inputs, not a synonym for difference. This is a favorite of television sports announcers ("There's a three-point differential in the game!").
    • A differential is also used in mathematics to refer to infinitesimals in calculus and differential geometry i.e. dx, dy etc or to the Jacobian matrix of partial derivatives.
  • A demigod is not a lesser "category" of deity. "Demi" means "half", i.e. "half god". A demigod has both mortal and divine parentage. For example, Hercules (son of Zeus, a god, and Alcmene, a human) is a demigod, whereas a dryad (a forest spirit) is not.
    • Note, however, that the term was invented by 19th century classicists; the Greek word for "of mixed divine and mortal parentage" was "hero" (which originally never applied to pureblood mortals—and also had intrinsically cultic connotations, since all the mythic heroes were considered appropriate for worship, especially Heracles).
  • Something being random means that it has no clear predictability or arrangement. It doesn't mean "kooky" or "off the wall", and neither sporks nor waffles nor doom are "random" (see also: the 4chan meme "Katy").
  • Chiropractic is also an adjective. The noun form is chiropraxy. Use it.
  • A categorical imperative is not simply an absolute imperative. While "categorical" can mean "absolute," a "categorical imperative" is a moral obligation born of the consequences of a significant portion of a category of people shirking it, despite little harm in any one individual doing so.
  • Prequel doesn't mean "a previous installment in a series". It means "a sequel to an existing work that takes place earlier in the timeline of its 'Verse".
  • The suffix mancer does not mean "magician". A [something]mancer is a very specific type of magician who uses [something] to predict the future. (A "necromancer" used bones and entrails to divine.) A better suffix, -urge, means "worker", as in "one who creates or works with". A thaumaturge (worker of wonders) is a magician, but a dramaturge (playwright) isn't, and neither is a metallurgist nor a demiurge.
  • The Internet usage of Troll does not mean "someone who has a different opinion from mine", "someone who has an unpopular opinion", or "someone who does something for attention". A troll is someone who does/says things for the sole purpose of trying to piss people off. Someone can legitimately have an unpopular opinion, but he's not a troll unless he states it just to be annoying.
    • A well known real-life troll is Fred Phelps, who travels around the country saying the most upsetting things he can to emotional audiences (mainly at funerals), in the hopes that someone will cross the legal line so he and his family (all lawyers) can sue them.
    • The term comes not from the mythical creature, but from a trawling, the method of fishing involving moving through the water while waving the bait behind you. An internet troll is fishing for reactions, waving their 'opinion' as bait.
      • Its earliest use, in the early 90's, usually referred to 'fishing out' new users and lurkers (often in a good-natured attempt to encourage them to write) by presenting an argument that had been already thoroughly discussed by regulars.
    • In even narrower sense, trolls do not even have to have an unpopular opinions. They cause also can cause stir by simply initiating a discussion that is bound to cause an argument but they may do so without taking sides themselves. (However, be careful with accusations in this case; they may simply have triggered an event by accident.)
    • Lately the term has been used as a synonym for "bully" or "harasser" in that it constitutes behavior used to belittle or demean a target. It's also often confused with the term "flaming" which is any sort of negativity towards a specific user. While the initial trolling might involve any of those, the end goal of the troll is to incite flames rather than just insult somebody.
  • A furry is not the same thing as a zoophile. A zoophile gets off on real animals, while furries like fictional anthropomorphic characters, most of whom would be intelligent enough to consent if they were real.
    • Also, many if not most furries are not interested in the sexual aspect of the fandom at all, they simply like drawing/dressing up as/writing about anthropomorphic animals.
    • The confusion about the definition of the term is not helped by the fact that it is often used interchangeably to refer to both fans of anthropomorphic animal characters and the characters themselves. The especially pedantic may insist on referring to the former as "furry fans" and reserving the term "furry" for the latter, but even that may be confused by the practice of taking on a "fursona," at which point a person is both a furry fan and a self-identified (though not literal) furry (i.e. anthropomorphic animal).
  • I.e. ("id est," "that is") and e.g. ("exempli gratia," "for example") are not interchangeable. I.e may be used to expand upon a point or to exhaustively list every possibility, while e.g. merely gives possible answers but leaves the list open.
    "There are many varieties of pasta, e.g., spaghetti, macaroni, and gnocchi."
    "Pasta should be made al dente, i.e., firm and chewy, not overcooked."
    • A useful mnemonic is to remember i.e. as "in essence" and e.g. as "example given."
    • On a similar note, etc. ("et cetera," "and other things"), should never end a list introduced with "e.g." or "i.e." (or the plain English "for example" and "such as"). Etc. and e.g. are redundant, and it makes no sense to abbreviate i.e.
  • A cannibal eats members of its own species. Something that is non-human, but eats humans, is an anthropophage. "Anthropophage" is a pretty pedantic word, but come on; use "man-eater" or something. Technically a human who eats other humans would be a cannibal and an anthropophage, but "cannibal" seems superordinate in this case. The word "cannibal" derives from the Carib people (after whom the Caribbean Sea is named) who were once believed to chew and spit out the flesh of a defeated enemy.
    • This was actually mentioned in Dawn of the Dead, where it was said that the undead were not cannibals, because they were no longer human.
    • This is also pointed out in Dragon Age: Origins by Alistair when he remarks that it's not cannibalism if Dog is eating fallen foes.
    • However, in fantasy/sci-fi settings, the definition is sometimes extended to any sapient creature eating another (Elves eating humans, or even lizardfolk, would be considered cannibals in such a setting).
  • The phrase "more highly evolved" means nothing: evolution doesn't work like a ladder that animals climb to the top. No biologist has thought of it that way since Darwin. You could say that a species that hasn't changed for a few million years is "unevolved" but that would be a rather simplistic way of looking at it. After all evolution is still working on the species, because they aren't changing, evolution is "selecting" for no change. Evolution is always working on a species, unless they reach a very specific and almost impossible set of conditions.
    • Can't we say a species is more or less completely adapted, if its environment has recently changed?
    • The word evolution can mean a lot of different things, from the scientific "natural selection", and "development of life from single-celled organisms to current situation", the same but including emergence of life from non-life, and the less scientific "change over time", "change for the better" or simply "huge change", as used in advertising.
      • Evolution may also refer to specific terms of conditions. If we speak about, say, the operating systems that are meant to be user-friendly and efficient then we can say that better-developed systems are 'more evolved'. In the case of natural selection such judgment makes little sense because that would have required an objective knowledge of the meaning of life which is, as all things objective, beyond the grasp of human mind.
    • Similarly, terms such as devolution, de-evolution, reverse evolution, etc. carry no meaning in biology (although "devolution" carries a separate meaning in politics), since complex forms of life can become less complex and physical traits that were once advantageous can disappear (or remain as vestigial traits) over generations when confronted by a new environment. That doesn't stop the writers of science fiction from occasionally using this term when a member of one species "returns" to an ancestral form, nor does it stop some people from adopting the term to mean "reverse progress."
    • Also: By the millions of years their species have been around with few significant changes, two of the least highly evolved creatures are alligators and sharks. Evolution doesn't have any direction, but once it stumbles on a winning combination, it is really good at sticking with it.
  • Castration is specifically the removal of testicles. The correct term for the removal of the penis (or the male genitalia as a whole) is emasculation. Though it might be argued that the correct term for either one is ouch.
    • The surgical removal of the penis is called a penectomy, while orchidectomy is the term for the surgical removal of the testicles. (And now you get the joke in Mad Men about Bert Cooper's "unnecessary orchidectomy.")
    • One can be castrated without the testicles being removed (still less the whole scrotum- very dangerous without modern techniques, it has a heavy blood supply)- the only significant part is the testes, the glands within them. These can be permanently decommissioned by drugs or, in the case of the Italian castrati singers of the 14th to 19th centuries, by being deliberately ruptured by being squeezed by one who knows where to apply pressure. (They can also be ruptured by accident, though you'd have to be very unlucky to lose both this way.)
  • A totem is not a personal spirit guide, even if it is an animal. A totem animal protects an entire group of people, such as a family, clan, or tribe.
  • Asexual is applied in general to anyone who doesn't have sex for any reason, but, as a proper sexual orientation, there are several more nuanced shades of meaning. Asexual in the strict sense means that a person does not feel physical attraction to others. A person who wants to have sex but has physiological or psychological reasons preventing them from having sex is not asexual. Similarly, someone who identifies as asexual does not see themselves as suffering from a medical disorder like lack of sex drive.
    • An asexual can and often does experience attraction but it's more of the platonic/aesthetic type. There are as many different types of asexuals as sexuals, but it should really be pointed out that it has nothing to do with desiring relationships. There are many sexuals who do not desire relationships, for example, Charlie Sheen's character on Two and a Half Men.
    • Being asexual does not necessarily mean that the person doesn't want relationships— an aromantic person is uninterested in relationships. One can be asexual but romantic (enjoys friendship, love, kissing or hugging, but is uninterested in sexual activity) or sexual but aromantic (interested in sex but not in relationships).
    • Autosexual can refer to a person who enjoys masturbation, but not sex (with another person). Autosexuals are not considered asexual.
      • Technically, as an orientation, an autosexual is someone who is in love with themself. Otherwise, autosexuality or autoerotica is a behavior, not a sexual orientation. Otherwise, sexuals who masturbate would also be called autosexuals.
  • Relatedly, abstinence is a willing choice not to engage in some activity—such as, for example, sexual abstinence (which might range from "doing everything but intercourse" to much stricter levels of abstinence, like refraining from masturbation and from sexual contact with others). Celibacy originally meant simply "being unmarried", but now generally means being unmarried and sexually abstinent. Chastity means obeying the appropriate moral rules for sexual behavior, which does not necessarily imply sexual abstinence: in traditional Christian teaching, for example, a chaste husband and wife would be sexually active with each other (but with nobody else), but a chaste, unmarried person would be sexually abstinent.
  • Epic refers to "epic poetry," which means narratives that are heroic, majestic, or impressively great. Calling something "epic" is to compare it to the scale of something from an epic narrative ... Which is meaningless if one doesn't know about epic narratives. Since internet culture uses this word to describe anything that is remotely good, that underscores how meaningless it's become.
  • Comprise and compose are (roughly) reciprocal, not synonyms. An archipelago is composed of many islands, and comprises those islands; it is not comprised of the islands — if anything, the islands are comprised of the archipelago (though this use of of is very archaic; comprised by might be better—although not by much, since comprised by is hardly a common expression either).
  • Erstwhile is not laudatory; it means 'former'.
  • In chemistry, Volatile does not mean "explosive" or "flammable"note , it means how likely the substance is to vaporise. Vapours of a given flammable substance likely will be even more flammable than say the liquid form, but that's just coincidental. The correct words to describe something which is likely to go boom or otherwise react spontaneously is either unstable (for when it is energetically likely) or labile (when it is kinetically likely); in particular, gasoline and oils are volatile but not particularly unstable, compared to compounds like acetylene.
    • In regular English, the other meaning ("quick to anger" or "prone to violence") is perfectly correct, however.
  • Holland is a region in The Netherlands. It comprises most of the coastal region and the best-known cities from The Netherlands lie in Holland, namely Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Holland is not a valid name for the country, nor is it the name of a province anymore. The region that was once Holland now has the imaginative names North Holland and South Holland. This is akin to referring to the UK as "England".
    • It should be noted that in several languages the official name of Netherlands is derived from the name of the Holland province (e.g. 'Holandia' in Polish or 'Holland' in Danish and Estonian). It is used however to denote only the European part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands that incorporates also Aruba and former Dutch Antilles).
    • Of course, it doesn't help avoid confusion when the pars pro toto shorthand "Holland" is used in the name of the national football team and by local fans who shout "Holland!" and "Hup Holland Hup!" at matches (so the word "Holland" is prominently implied to denote the whole country to the rest of the world's spectators), and "Holland" is currently used by the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions to refer to the entire country in literature for prospective visitors. The main tourist website is which contains a brief description of why Netherlands is technically correct but why it's nonetheless preferred to use Holland to attract visitors. The Dutch may actually be less pedantic on this point than many English speakers.
  • A rabbi is a person sufficiently versed in Jewish law to have obtained this designation from a religious authority, not unlike an academic degree (you are still entitled to be addressed as Doctor even if you "don't do anything" with your Ph. D.). A rabbi:
    • is not the Jewish equivalent of a priest (there still exists a hereditary priestly class within the Tribe of Levi, called Kohanim, although their duties have been significantly reduced since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE);
    • is not a person who certifies kosher food (this is a mashgiaḥ, which literally means "inspector", and it is certainly not done through "blessing" food as Hollywood seems to think);
    • is not a person who does circumcisions (this is a mohel, who is generally a licensed physician these days),
    • is not a person who leads prayers in the synagogue (this is a ḥazan or cantor, or often just a lay member of the congregation); and
    • is not exclusively the spiritual leader of a synagogue (rabbis who do this are usually called "pulpit rabbis", but there are thousands of individuals with rabbinic ordination who do not work for synagogue congregations, including those who simply study full-time).
    • Now to be fair, there is overlap among these categories — some kohanim become rabbis, some rabbis work as mashgiḥim, etc., but the fact of being a rabbi does not mean that one is/does any of them. Also, any bearded man wearing black is not a rabbi — this is standard appearance for all ultra-Orthodox Jews whether or not they have rabbinic ordination.
  • The generic verbing of nouns, medaling to describe winning a medal, actioning for doing something, friending for becoming friends. This is an interesting case, as it is becoming increasingly acceptable to "verb" nouns in colloquial speech, and it isn't like these words have any other established uses that would make a distinction worthwhile to defend (being neologisms for the most part).note  As a result, it's difficult to solidly classify any of these verb-to-noun constructions as solecisms (except perhaps actioning, which provides only a clumsy synonym for doing much as utilizing is most frequently used as a clumsy synonym for using), but one would be very well-advised to avoid them in more formal writing.
  • Jealousy typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, particularly in reference to a human connection. One can be a jealous boyfriend, but one cannot be jealous of someone else's boyfriend, unless there's already something between the two of you. This is often confused with Envy, which is "an emotion that occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. Further compounding the confusion is the word Covet, which includes all the characteristics of the definition of 'envy' but also indicates a willingness to take the object coveted for themselves. For instance, if a person has a television set that you want, envy might drive you to buy a bigger, better TV (as you desire the quality of owning a nice television). If you coveted it, however, you'd be more likely to steal their TV (as you desire the exact television set they own).
    • This confusion has caused no small amount of confusion with one of the Christian commandments. The command is correctly translated as 'Do not covet', but 'Do not envy' and, worse yet, 'Do not be jealous' are common incorrect translations.
  • Lose vs. Loose: More of a spelling issue than a language one; people still say them correctly. However, (particularly online), the two are used almost interchangeably, though it is more common to add an "o" than to subtract one. For the record, "lose" (rhymes with "booze") is a verb, and it means the opposite of winning. "Loose" (rhymes with "goose") is an adjective, and the opposite of tight. You can lose a game, but not tighten it. Your shoelaces can be loose, but you can't win them. Okay, technically shoelaces could be a prize...
    • Loose can also be used as a verb, to mean "release", but that usage is kinda archaic — you've probably never heard it outside The Bible. It still isn't the opposite of "win" or "find", ever.
    • Not only a spelling issue, but very often a "spell-check" type of issue, where the word could be a typo but will never be caught by spell-check.
    • A particularly interesting example of this is a Swedish book called The Looser Handbook which is about the art of leading a life of constant failure. It only stands to reason that the author would fail at naming the book, since failure is what the book is about.
  • Casualties also refers to wounded people in addition to those that have died in a conflict or accident; you were probably looking for Fatalities. Note however that the definition of wounded is pretty fluid - it can mean anything from "minor stab wound" to "three limbs blown off and permanent loss of hearing". In other words just anything short of actual death.
    • To quote the other wiki, "In military usage, a casualty is a person in service killed in action, killed by disease, disabled by injuries, disabled by psychological trauma, captured, deserted, or missing, but not someone who sustains injuries which do not prevent them from fighting." So if one received a minor stab wound and got stitched up and sent back to the front one would not be a casualty.
  • Invalid with regard to arguments is a matter of not having the correct form. It has nothing to do with the truth value of the statement. See generally Sound, Valid, True.
    • "Fido has four legs. Dogs have four legs. Therefore Fido is a dog." is invalid. "Fido has four legs. All animals with four legs are cats. Therefore Fido is a cat" is valid.
  • CGI: In Video Games, the term is often misused to describe pre-rendered cutscenes. All videogames (except ones done entirely with Full Motion Video) use CGI, which means "computer-generated imagery". Even Pac-Man and Donkey Kong use CGI; their graphics were created by computer images. When a cutscene is debated on whether it shows real gameplay, there's no question whether it has CGI (unless it features live-action video). The question is whether the video was pre-rendered and recorded beforehand or if it features the actual game assets.
  • MMO is commonly used to refer to an MMORPG, an abbreviation for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. While it makes sense to abbreviate the term, most people refer to an MMORPG as an "MMO", when "MMO" is merely a prefix, as any genre can be Massively Multiplayer and online. Most Massively Multiplayer Online Games happen to be RPGs because the formula had been experimented with the most, but if you refer to game as an "MMOG" or refer to Neocron or PlanetSide as an "MMOFPS" or Darkwind War On Wheels as an "MMOTBS", people will often look at you weirdly and not understand what you meant as other multiplayers, no matter how massive they are just call them "Multiplayer" or "Online".
  • A Protagonist is the principal character (or, more loosely, characters) of a work, typically the one from whose perspective it is narrated and usually (though not always) The Hero, or at least the person we're meant to sympathise with. Strictly speaking, there can only be one protagonist. The second-most important character on the protagonist's side is the "deuteragonist", the third is the "tritagonist", and so forth. An Antagonist is a character who creates problems for the protagonist, and is thus typically The Villain (although again, not always). It is NOT the other way round. Some people get this wrong, even though you'd think it obvious given that 'antagonist' obviously shares a root with 'antagonize'....
  • MP3 refers to either the MPEG standard popularly used to encode music or audio files, or a file using this standard. It is not the same as an MP3 player, which is either computer software or a physical media player which plays MP3s, and it is not a catch-all for all kinds of digital audio.
    • On a side note, MP3 does not stand for MPEG-3 but for MPEG-1 Layer 3 (and MPEG-2 Part 3) which is a sound encoding mechanism for the MPEG-1 format. In order to avoid any further confusion, the MPEG (Moving Picture Expert Group) decided there would never be any MPEG-3 standard and thus they went from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4.
    • This is made worse by chinese manufacturers who simply bump the number after "MP" whenever they add a new feature, so we have MP3 player, MP4 player (their 'new feature' is video playback, but they're also unrelated to MPEG-4 and don't support MPEG-4 video at all), MP5 player, MP6 player...
  • A riff is "a short, repeated phrase, frequently played over changing chords or harmonies or used as a background to a solo improvisation". The way "riff" is often used, especially by MST3K, is as though the riff itself is an improvisation, and "riffing" is the act of coming up with something on the spot. It's actually the opposite: a riff is the same thing repeated over and over again, possibly with slight variation. The confusion likely comes about because riffs are used in jazz, and jazz is improvisational music; but improvisations are not made of riffs, they're made of longer, more complex melodic phrases. Improvisation is the spontaneous creation of a melody, and is not properly called "riffing". An example of "riffing" would be the guitar part in the verse of "You Really Got Me", "Come As You Are", or "Whole Lotta Love"; or in jazz, the repeated horn parts heard most famously in Count Basie arrangements: a short fragment that's repeated constantly and identically.
    • as a note [no pun intended] when people refer to a "riff" or "riffing", what they are probably INTENDING to refer to is "scatting" - scat singing, specifically, although one can scat on any instrument; "scat" officially means "vocal improvisation with wordless vocables" (nonsense syllables generally, sometimes just "oooo" or "aaa", sometimes a single word used over and over, etc) but over the past decades has grown to mean ANY instrument improvising the melody, over the riff, in a jazz or jazz-based song or piece.
    • On the other hand, Merriam-Webster dictionary describes riff as above (noting the possible etymologyis a shortening of the word 'refrain') but also gives another definitions, namely 'any variation or improvisation'.
  • Occasionally, a law-enforcement officer will refer to the scene of a brutal crime as being very "graphic". Well, duh, you're there and you're looking at it, one would expect it to be visual and realistic instead of merely implied. The idea of "graphic" violence in media isn't that it's Gorn, just that it's shown onscreen rather than implied.
  • Rein vs. reign. "Reign" means to rule as royalty, "reins" are what one uses to guide a horse. Both involve leadership and sound exactly alike, and so are easily confused. A very common example is the phrase "free rein", which means letting loose of the reins and allowing a horse to wander as it pleases. This is often misused as "free reign", which doesn't even make sense: a King by definition has freedom to reign, it's what makes him a King. So to recap: "reign" refers to a state of having authority, while "free rein" or "being given the reins" refer to the actions of leadership in a situation. If there is a plural, it's almost always going to be "reins".
  • Charisma refers to someone's speaking talents and ability to influence others through force of personality and diplomacy. While good looks help, someone is not charismatic because she looks good in a formal dress, or because he has blue eyes and a nice smile; similarly, just because someone is able to speak publicly and get their point across doesn't qualify them either, not unless people are cheering wildly for how the news is presented, rather than the facts themselves.
  • Calorie is a non-SI unit of energy. It is relatively small unit however, so caloric intake of foods is usually expressed in kilocalories, (1 kcal = 1000 calories). Thus an average recommended daily energy intake is not 2200 calories but 2200 kilocalories or 2,200,000 calories.
    • A Calorie refers to a kilocalorie, while a calorie refers to the base unit. This can get confusing when 'calorie' is at the beginning of a sentence, which without context, would be indistinguishable as to if it was between the normal unit or the large unit.
  • Stereophonic refers to an audio that has exactly two speakers, instead of one (mono) or four (surround). It is slightly inaccurate to refer to a system with surround sound as a "stereo", but always inaccurate to refer to the output as being "stereo sound."
    • Less commonly, it can be any sound the gives the illusion of being surrounded by a sound field. It's not useful stereo if the two speakers are stacked one on top of the other, or placed too close together as in a boombox.
  • One's interest is piqued, not peaked. This mistake is understandable, since "peak" can be used as a verb to mean "maximize" or "climax"; though your English professor will still probably mark this as being wrong. "Poque" is right out.
  • The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by her mother Anna, specifically the belief that "from the first moment of her existence [... Mary] was preserved by God from the Original Sin and filled with sanctifying grace that would normally come with baptism after birth." Jesus' conception and birth from Mary was the Virgin Birth. (Whether Mary actually was immaculately conceived is a huge theological dispute between Catholics and modern Protestants, so nothing more will be said about that. But if a Protestant says he doesn't believe in the "Immaculate Conception", he is not necessarily saying that Mary wasn't a virgin.)
  • A song is called "song" because there's singing in it. If there is no singing in it, it is not a song. There is a proper word for a musical composition without singing. It's a piece. In the context of popular music, one might call it a "track" (which encompasses music that does have singing and music that doesn't).
    • Musical definitions are strange animals because composers are always Playing With definitions. Mendelssohn quite famously wrote piano pieces called or "Lieder ohne Worte," or "Songs without words." Even in German, the Lied was associated with singing, and Mendelssohn was Playing With the idea in the 19th century. Also, a "piece" can include singing, but it is normally limited to one where the singing is not the primary purpose, like Beethoven's 9th symphony. However, there is a song in that movement (which we know as "Ode to Joy"). Composers love to Mind Screw with convention.
      • All of which gets frustrating when trying to put this kind of music into a computer, having to classify movements or recitatives as 'songs', composers as 'bands', operas as 'albums' and anything written before about 1920 as 'Classical', a weird appellation to, say, Medieval music, to lump it in with Puccini and Handel (neither of whom are really 'classical' either.)
  • A neophyte is someone who is new to something (a newbie); it literally means "new/young/newly-planted plant". A neophile is someone who likes things that are new.
  • Novitiate is the state, condition, or period of being a novice, not the person. William Buckley fouls this up in Tucker's Last Stand.
  • An epidemic refers to the frequency of a disease substantially exceeding what is expected in recent history.
  • Sushi is a food consisting of cooked rice mixed with vinegar ("shari") and other ingredients. It can contain a large variety of ingredients ranging from vegetables, seafood (mostly uncooked, but some are cooked as well), sauces, etc. The shari makes it sushi. Onigiri or (o)musubi is usually rice (no vinegar), another ingredient, wrapped in seaweed.
  • Ichor originally meant the blood of gods or angels. In later times, it has somehow come to also mean pus. Fiction writers, however, like to use it as a "fancy-sounding" word for pretty much any liquid.
  • Your and you're. "Your" is a possessive pronoun used to describe something as belonging to the person being addressed, while "you're" is a contraction of "you are". If "you are" would fit instead, then "your" is not the correct word.
    • Likewise, it's, and its have similar misuse. "Its" is a possessive pronoun that's usually used to describe what belongs to the subject in the sentence. "It's" is the contraction of "it is". If "it is" can fit into the sentence, then "its" is not the correct word. Likewise, if there's a sign of the subject having possession in the sentence, then "it's" does not apply.
  • Implicate means to be responsible for something, or to assign responsibility to someone. Insinuate means to subtly hint at something unpleasant. Both are used for "imply", whether positive or negative. Imply actual means to strongly hint at something.
  • Pilot does not simply mean "the first episode of a TV show". It should be used if, and only if, the episode is made by itself with the intention of shopping it around to various networks who will then pick it up as a series. Pulp Fiction, which popularized the term, actually made this distinction, but along the way the word has become conflated with premiere. This usage is especially incorrect when referring to animated shows, which often get a whole season commissioned in advance due to animation lead time, and the pilot or pitch demo, often made cheaply and quickly, is simply redone.
    • The exception, obviously, is when the pilot is made and then broadcast as the first episode.
  • Ripoff is either a bad financial scam where you are conned into buying a fake product, or something where you are tricked into giving money without receiving anything in return. A lot of people use "ripoff" to mean the general act of copying or mimicry in general, and in the form of entertainment, a Ripoff is apparently "Something that's similar to a movie I saw before." The origin of this misuse had to do with Mockbusters trying to trick people into buying their product mistaking it for the product they actually wanted.
  • Egregious has been used so egregiously on This Very Wiki that it has its own page.
  • Similarly Your Mileage Will Vary is used as a way of referring to Your Mileage May Vary taken Up to Eleven on especially controversial issues that reach a point where there is no middle ground. Your Mileage May Vary comes from car commercials that say consumers might get a different amount of mileage than is advertised, and on this wiki, means that viewers might not agree with the statement. Using "Your Mileage Will vary" implies unanimous disagreement rather than inevitable controversy.
  • The word Trope does not come from TV Tropes, and like "subversion" its meaning in the real world is different than on this site. In reality "trope" does not mean "storytelling device" but "the use of a word to have a meaning different than the usual one."
    • It does almost fit; trope titles often use words differently than the literal definition, because they're slang or jargon that already existed, or for brevity, or to make a pun.
  • The word logical does not mean "reasonable" or "the result of a well-shaped argument". It means "defined according to the rules of logic", logic being a number of highly specific ways to describe and analyze the interaction between set premises.
  • One that shows up every now and again is equivocal to mean "equivalent". An equivocal statement is one that is ambiguous and open to interpretation (conversely, an unequivocal statement is one in which the meaning is clear).
  • Presently does not mean "happening now" or "ongoing". It means "soon".
  • Ambivalence is not the same as ambiguity or just 'not bothered'. if you feel ambivalent about a decision, you are torn by equally strong feelings in two (or more) directions. A child deciding whether to live with her mother or father after a divorce might feel ambivalent.
  • The term "stepchild" is sometimes mistakenly used with children who are adopted, rather than for children whose parents have married someone besides their other parent. For example, Lindesfarne of Kevin & Kell is Angelique's adopted daughter, but after her adoptive parents' divorce, she became Kell's stepdaughter when she married her adoptive father Kevin.
  • Something that is anonymous has no name attached. If there is a name attached but it doesn't match the one on the originator's passport, such as an internet username, it's pseudonymous.
  • Cherubim (singular cherub) are the alien looking creatures appearing in the book of Ezekiel. The chubby little winged cupids are called putti (or putto in singular), and don't really have anything to do with biblical angels.
  • In the entertainment industry, there are indie developers (short for independent) that create and release their own works without relying on a 3rd party to assist in their project, such as major developers or publishers. However, people often get meaning of indie movies/games/etc. wrong and think it means the product was made by people who did not have a lot of money. This also leads people to believe that indie developers that make a ton of money off of their work or use a major publisher to get their product out to the public have "sold out" to major corporations. In short, as long as a group of developers have total control over their creations and don't have anyone outside of their group influencing their work, then the developers are indie, whether they are large or small, profitable or unprofitable.
  • Someone born with reproductive organs that are intermediate between male and female is not transgender or a hermaphrodite, they are intersexed. A true hermaphrodite is an organism with functional male and female parts in the same body, that can reproduce as either: a condition which occurs naturally in earthworms or snails, but never in humans.
  • "Excessive" does not mean "a lot" or "a great deal". It means "too much".
  • One can only commit treason if they are working with a foreign power. If it's a completely internal case of trying to overthrow the government, it's sedition.
  • Cojones is Spanish for balls. Cajones is Spanish for drawers.
  • Port and starboard do not mean left and right, but specifically the ship's left and right — that is, the left and the right of a person on the ship facing towards the bow. The fore and aft directions are similarly measured relative to the vessel, not the speaker.
    • In cases where a smaller boat or plane is being carried on a larger ship, "left" and "right" are always used when referring to the smaller boat or plane to prevent confusion. So if a plane is parked on a carrier deck facing towards the back of the ship, the left side of the plane is towards the starboard side of the ship.
  • Entitled means that someone is given a title, authority or rightful ownership of something. Some people however use it as if it meant the opposite, "someone is claiming to deserve something, although he doesn't". Even on TV Tropes - see Entitled Bastard, Entitled to Have You. The usage here refers to an unearned subjective feeling of entitlement, hence the common expression "sense of entitlement" - the person in question feels they deserve something, even though they don't. The correct way to use "entitled" would be saying the person feels or acts like they are entitled to something, not that they are "being" entitled.
  • Simplistic is not a synonym for "simple". It means "too simple" or "simple to a fault", and is inherently pejorative.
  • A sprite, for video game terms, is a 2D image in video games that is completely flat and lacks 3D angles. People who have little knowledge on video game definitions assume that all characters that one sees in a game are sprites, which is not completely true; people confused 3D models for sprites and a model is a 3D shape that can be viewed from any angle. Some games like Paper Mario invoke a 2D style, but most of them use 3D character models that are flattened down so they look 2D.
  • For video games, graphics is what a viewer sees on their display or monitor. Many people assume that "graphics" means what the video game looks like. In actuality, people usually mean the game's visual style when they describe a game's graphics.
  • Open Beta and Closed Beta get heavily confused when people try to differentiate the two terms. A beta that is closed off to the public means that only people who get handpicked by developers via invites, a dedicated team formed to test the beta, and/or has a limited amount of slots available if the developers needs just a certain amount of people. An open beta means it's fully open to the public and anyone can take part without slots being limited. Some video games are available in its beta state and sometimes players can buy the game as such to test the game and keep the final version of the game once it is finished. Technically speaking, a "paid, open beta" is an oxymoron, since "beta test" is defined as a test of a computer product prior to wide commercial release. No matter what a company tries to tell you, once they're accepting money from the general public, they're selling a product, not conducting a beta test. This is further confused by the fact that "beta" used to imply that the software was "incomplete" in some way; in the modern world of seamless online patches and updates, no software product is ever "complete" until the company stops issuing new patches and updates, often years after the product has come out of beta.
  • Political ideologies in general suffer from a lot of confusion which can make discussions very hard. The confusion of what left and right actually mean, for example, or what is the relationship between conservatism and economic policies, or perhaps the most confusing word liberal which has different meanings in different countries which can, at worst, be the opposite of each other.
  • Autistic, at least on the Internet, gets used to mean "'retarded' only less so" more and more often in recent years - while less for perceived stupidity and more for social awkwardness (so you'll never find someone calling an inanimate object autistic even online), the general effect is the same. This is most likely due to the GIFT; anonymity means both that people feel freer to use "autistic" to mean "asshole" despite the Unfortunate Implications, and that people feel freer to use autism as an excuse for being an asshole (whether they're actually diagnosed or not), which only perpetuates the stereotype.
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer, as originally defined by Nintendo in reference to certain Wii U games, is a multiplayer mode in which the different players have totally different roles and capabilities, unlike most multiplayer games, where all the players are generally doing the same thing and playing the game the same way. This does not include games where players can be different characters (e.g., a magic user and a sword user) with slightly different abilities but carry out essentially the same goal in the same way. This instead refers to games where the roles, abilities and gameplay experience are drastically different. Misuse of the term became an issue with Star Trek: The Video Game and several other games revealed and/or discussed in the period during/after E3 2012, when the development teams for the games claimed that their Co-Op Multiplayer counted as Asymmetric Multiplayer (probably stemming from a desire to ride on the coattails of the initial Wii U hype).
  • AIDS is often used to refer to the notorious sexually-transmitted disease that cripples the host's immune system. "AIDS" stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and many people don't understand the "syndrome" part. You cannot catch AIDS; rather, you are reduced to it by being infected with the aforementioned STD, which by the way is called HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and having it beat the snot out of your immune cells. It is possible for someone to have HIV, but not AIDS, so long as their immune system is still intact. In addition, no one dies from AIDS - they die from complications related to the condition.
  • Maltese cross is a eight-pointed cross which has the form of four "V"-shaped elements joined at the center, most famously used by The Knights Hospitallers. Colloquially, however, the term "maltese cross" is sometimes applied to the cross pattée, a cross which has arms narrower at the centre, and broader at the perimeter, most often associated with the Prussian and German military usage.
  • Scandinavia: Finland and Iceland are not Scandinavian countries, though they are sometimes referred to as such. Scandinavia consists of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. (They are, however, part of the Nordic region, as are the Scandinavian countries. There's also a distinction between Scandinavia—a political-cultural concept—and the Scandinavian Peninsula, a geographical feature which excludes Denmark but includes part of Finland.)
  • Sex/Gender: The distinction between sex and gender. The sexes (male and female) as the two divisions in which many organisms are placed, based upon their reproductive role and the genders (masculine and feminine) referring to social characteristics (such as behavioral norms) associated with males and females, respectively. The use of gender to mean the same thing as sex dates back to the 14th century, whereas the use of gender to mean gender roles only dates to John Money's work in the 1950s. So it is not incorrect by any stretch for people to continue using the original meaning of the word (which in fact still precedes the gender roles meaning in the dictionary ).
    • The distinction between transgenderism and transsexuality does not necessarily have anything to do with genitals or whether or not someone has had sex reassignment surgery (SRS). "Transgender" is usually understood as an umbrella term for anyone whose sex and gender aren't totally congruent, or who strongly deviates from gender norms. "Transsexual" means someone who permanently transitions from one gender to another, usually through medical treatments like hormones and surgery as well as social and legal changes, but no individual step is necessary for being transsexual. SRS doesn't have much to do with it. Many transsexuals can't have SRS or choose not to. Furthermore, "transgender" is already an adjective. Saying "transgendered" is simply redundant.
  • The words nemesis and archenemy are synonyms, as both words mean "one's greatest enemy". The "arch" modifier in "archenemy" signifies "greatest", while the word "nemesis" doesn't require a modifier because it already means "one's greatest enemy" by itself. "Arch-nemesis" is not only incorrect but redundant, since it would mean "one's greatest greatest enemy".
  • The term pay to win is used in many video games that entices the player to buy items or enhancements with real life money in order to have an easier time in beating the game or getting a step ahead of the competition. Many free to play games are designed to be frustrating to play normally and have heavy restrictions on what the player can do unless the person forks over money to gain and advantage. Pay to win is also applied to competitive games where a player can buy enhancements to defeat their opponents with little effort, thus only people with money to burn can beat everyone else that didn't pay. However, people often use pay to win on any video game with DLC that contains new weapons or other items, even if the game itself can be played just fine without the extra content or if the game lacks any competitive aspect.
  • The words atom and molecule, and their derived terms ("molecular", etc.) are not synonymous. Molecules are structures formed from atoms. By strict usage, "molecule" only refers to structures held together by covalent bonds, so e.g. a block of metal is not made of molecules - its atoms are connected by metallic bonds.
  • In the SCP Foundation notably, you will very often see the word amnesiac referring to substances that cause loss of memory. An amnesiac is actually a person suffering from amnesia. A substance causing amnesia would be an amnestic. However the word is so deeply rooted in SCP terminology that it's all but impossible to do anything about it.

Moderately PedanticYou Keep Using That Word    

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