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You Keep Using That Word: Moderately Pedantic
  • Addict in adjective form is "addictive". However, clumsy attempts to mangle it into this form tend to fall to "addicting" instead, which is actually a gerund (which is a noun) or even a verb, but not an adjective. To put it simply, if you were to say "Cocaine is addicting" you would be implying that cocaine is, right now, in the process of getting someone addicted. While that may be true it's probably not what the speaker actually meant to say.
    • In technical medical terms, "addictive" refers only to substances which, when their use by a habitual users is discontinued, result in physical withdrawal symptoms. Thus you get people insisting that things like marijuana and MMOs are not "addictive," which is technically true for a given definition of "addictive," but does not address the more realistic concern that they might be habit-forming to an unhealthy degree in some users.
  • Melee means a confusing, chaotic hand-to-hand fight (possibly free-for-all — the word literally means "mixed", implying that the two sides fighting one another are mixed amongst themselves). In most Video Games however, it seems to be applied in a way that just means 'close-quarters range/fight'. If you're playing some sort of strategy game in which fights of a one-on-one nature are rare if they ever happen, the word may have a reasonable context. In other games, probably not.
    • Most video games just flat out refer to 'melee' weapons as the opposite of 'ranged' weapons and 'melee' itself as the opposite of 'casting spells' and/or 'shooting firearms'. In other words, in modern gaming parlance, the word 'melee' just means 'hand to hand'.
  • Race, species, phylum, and basically everything else from Taxonomic Term Confusion. Using "race" when you mean "species" is often forgivable in fantasy settings; even in Real Life, we have expressions like "the human race." Using "phylum" when you mean "taxon" is worse.
    • Doubly so on the fantasy setting point, as while "species" is fairly well defined in terms of viable reproduction, and while individual races, families, orders, classes, phyla and kingdoms are well defined in terms of particular phenotypical characteristics, there is no clear abstract definition (unlike for species) of when you should consider some novel set of similar creatures to constitute a new phylum (as opposed to a new class), meaning that the terms have little clear meaning outside an Earth biology context. If you say two distantly related alien species are part of the same phylum and I say they are merely part of the same kingdom, there is no principled way to resolve the dispute.
    • Historically, the word "race" has been used to mean anything from all humanity to a single family line. In Barry Lyndon, the title character at one point laments that it was not destined that he should leave any of "my race" on Earth after his death — meaning, not humans, nor white people, nor Irish people, but people of the Barry family. On Wikipedia, one old map depicts "Races of the Austro-Hungarian Empire" — meaning, nationalities, or ethnocultural groups with a common language — Germans, Hungarians, Ukrainians, etc.; all of them would have been more or less the same colour. Before the mid-twentieth century, "race" could be applied to any group of living things that perpetuated itself. In the 18th century, people wrote of the "race of labourers" and the "race of tailors". That's why whenever we see a pre-1940 use of the word "race," we mustn't simply assume that it refers to skin color. When people of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries spoke of "racial purity" or "racial improvement," they could have simply meant advances in medical technology for a particular country's citizens. In particular, the full title of Charles Darwin's opus is "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life". The "Favoured Races" here pretty much means species, not the kind of "Favoured Races" Hitler was talking about.
    • In modern times, a "race" is any group of people identified by specific physical traits that are deemed socially significant (as opposed to "ethnicity," which goes by cultural traits). With this in mind, race is a cultural construct, a judgment that the observer places on the observed, and not something with any basis in any somatic or genetic interpretation. Any attempts to create a taxonomy for race on the basis of physical appearance fails pretty quickly; after all, how black does one need to be "African," bearing in mind people of similar skin tones live on different continents. Are Indians Asian, with their dark skin and western facial features? The more specific the classification, the more members of that "race" are excluded; the fewer used, the more inaccurate such classifications get.
  • Siege is often used in media to mean simply "we're being attacked/invaded." To be under siege is to be surrounded by troops, and cut off from supplies so as to slowly starve until surrender. Unless the person is being surrounded or cut off from supplies, this doesn't really work.
  • Before being adopted by 19th-century European and American "racial scientists" and subsquently Nazis and white supremacists, Aryan was originally the term of choice for Indo-Iranian peoples because they called themselves Arya. Whatever Arya originally meant, it was more of socio-linguistic designation than an ethnic one. Some of them may have had blond hair, but the majority probably didn't. By this definition, then, the descendants of the Aryans can be found in countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Irannote , Tajikistan and Bangladesh. (In India, Aryan is opposed to Dravidian.)
    • The word itself means something akin to "well formed", from a root *ar- (which survives in the Greek aristos, "best", and English art, amongst others). As applied to the people themselves and their language, it probably carries the meaning "skillfully assembled, rightly proportioned, obeying the right customs" or similar, with the feeling of "one of us" (its precise opposite, anarya, is frequently used to mean "wrong" or "other"). This, along with its status as the earliest attested Indo-European autonym, is one of the reasons it was adopted by white supremacists to label their racial ideal. It's more than likely that none of them had blond hair (this was considered a marker of specifically "Germanic" rather than Aryan heritage), because their origins were likely as nomads on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, where blond hair is rare.
    • Speaking of Aryans, the Nazis had a very, ah, unusual (read: arbitrary) definition of Aryan. They could never really decide if "Aryan" meant Indo-European, White European, Nordic/Germanic European, Non-Jewish European, and/or Non-Slavic European. They also classified a number of people as Aryan which even modern white supremacists would find a little puzzling. Many Germans liked Karl May novels, so the Sioux became Aryans. For political convenience, the Japanese were Aryans. Nazi mythology placed the Aryan homeland in Tibet due to connection with Theosophy, so Tibetans were Aryans, too.
  • Gene is often used to mean "allele". An allele is one of multiple forms a gene assumes. For example, there is no human gene for brown hair; there's a gene for hair color in general, and one of its alleles results in brown hair. A valuable distinction for biologists, but not one that most people care about when they're at the movies.
  • Prodigal means "wasteful", not "wandering" or "long-lost". The Prodigal Son was the one who squandered his money; the wandering-and-returning happened in the process of his doing so. However, because of this parable, the word is very frequently understood to mean "lost".
    • Alternately, some people use prodigal to mean that someone is bad family. Again, while the prodigal son could be considered to have been a bad son and a bad brother, that is still not the meaning of the term.
    • Some people also use prodigal as an adjective form for the word "prodigy." While this is a bit understandable, as the two words do look similar, it is very wrong as the two words have nearly opposite meanings. For the record, the actual adjective form of prodigy is "prodigious."
  • To draw from another Biblical parable, a Good Samaritan is someone who helps even those that persecute him. In Biblical times the Samaritans were an ethno-religious group that was shunned heavily by the Jewish people. This was the entire purpose of the parable: a Samaritan saved the life of a dying Jew, thereby proving that goodness is not constrained by ethnic, cultural, or religious boundaries; even people you hate can do good, and you should still do good even for people who hate you. However, due to a lack of context, many people simply assume "Good Samaritan" to mean any person who does good deeds for any reason. Even worse, some people drop the "good" and just use "Samaritan" to refer to any good person, even though it originally meant the opposite. To put it in a more nerdy way: the X-Men, who fight to protect humanity even though humans despise them, are Good Samaritans. Superman, however, is not a Good Samaritan because he rarely if ever faces public persecution.
    • Furthermore, considering the ethnic/religious group known as the Samaritans still exists, calling someone a "Samaritan" is the same thing as saying that they are a part of this group. Calling someone a "Good Samaritan" could be considered the same as calling someone a "Good Jew" or even a "Good African." Not necessarily an insult, per se, but still very likely to offend some people.
  • Anarchy literally means "without a ruler", coming from the roots "an-" or "no" and "archy" or "rule". Anarchism is a political position opposed to government as well as to other forms of hierarchy or authority. Anarchists believe that social harmony can be more easily maintained through cooperation rather than competition. However, the word "anarchy" has come to mean the opposite: a state of violent chaos due to a lack of central authority. The word "anarchist" has also been used to mean a terrorist or sower of discord, a perception influenced by a rash of terrorist acts and assassinations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which were committed by anarchists. And even theorists didn't always agree anyway on what it means:
    "Anarchism is no patent solution for all human problems, no Utopia of a perfect social order, as it has so often been called, since on principle it rejects all absolute schemes and concepts. It does not believe in any absolute truth, or in definite final goals for human development, but in an unlimited perfectibility of social arrangements and human living conditions, which are always straining after higher forms of expression, and to which for this reason one can assign no definite terminus nor set any fixed goal." — Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, 1938.
  • A Libertarian and Libertarianism has been a synonym/euphemism for "Anarchism" as far back as the 1890s. Libertarian Athenaeums gave thousands of people access to basic education -including pioneering sexual education- and Libertarian Unions stood against the State and the Capitalist establishment. All this hasn't stopped the U.S. right-wing "libertarian" movement -which started in the late 1950s and is a staunch proponent of Capitalism- from claiming exclusive rights to both terms. While in a vacuum libertarian shares most of the anarchist values such personal freedom with no state intervention, within mainstream politics libertarians normally are saying they want those things, but only as far as is reasonable within the current political system. They aren't incorrect to say that they are 'supporting liberty', but they don't want to tear down the democracy for it either. In essence, any political term that is used in the modern political mainstream needs to come with the rider 'but without wrecking democracy'. It would probably be more correct to call such people 'Democratic Libertarians', as they support the democratic system and individual liberty, but since they are a part of the democratic system it pretty much comes as read that they are OK with democratic politics.
  • Regime or Régime simply refers to any and all governments or political administrations ruling over a state, regardless of their ideological orientation or political system. Both the United States (a representative democratic republic) and North Korea (an odd mix of a de facto absolute monarchy, a totalitarian police state, and a pharaonic cult) are led by regimes. In general usage, it is now mostly used to refer only to tyrannical, authoritarian, or repressive governments; political scholars have other definitions. In political theory it continues to mean "any form of government", and in international relations, it has come to mean "any political order of any kind, even if it isn't the government of a state" (e.g. "arms-control regime",note  "river-management regime",note  "regional security regime",note  etc.)—this latter use of "regime" is the focus of "regime theory," one of the more important movements in international relations since the late 1990s.
  • UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object, meaning that there's something moving in the sky, but you're not sure what it is. If it's obvious that said object is an extraterrestrial spacecraft, then it has been identified and no longer qualifies as a UFO. The Bastard Operator from Hell lampshaded this one when it was pointed out that there was an "extortionate penalty payment for remaining at work after a UFO sighting in the vicinity of the building" written into his contract, which he later invokes by asking "is that a 747-200F or a 747-200C?".
  • Gay originally meant something closer to carefree, with undertones of being unrestricted by social conventions. Later on, it was used to describe sexually active women, who were most definitely of the kind referred to as 'straight' today. It now describes homosexuals and is technically gender-neutral but mostly used for men. To top it off, it's seen heavy use as an insult lately.
    • Some people that use Gay as an insult and are called out on it attempt to weasel out of the mess by saying they were using the "happy" version of the word.
  • Lame (unable to walk) and dumb (unable to speak) went from their respective meanings to both being synonyms for "stupid" thanks to the euphemism treadmill. Words denoting negatively perceived characteristics naturally become used as insults. Idiot, moron, imbecile, and cretin were medical terms in the early 20th century, and "LD" for "learning disability" is already being used as a playground insult, as is "ADHD" or "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder".
    • The word stupid itself even qualifies. Originally it meant "in a stupor", so calling somebody stupid didn't mean they were unintelligent, but rather unresponsive or comatose.
    • "Dumb" as stupid and "dumb" as mute both come from "dumb" defined as "lacking an expected property", which is the etymology of "dummy". The OED suggests the Proto-Germanic meaning to be something like 'stupid', 'not understanding' (compare Modern German dumm, tumb).
    • Retarded technically means to be hindered or slowed down (hence its use in the term "retard bomb" which simply means that it falls slower than usual), but used to mean that someone has a mental disability and is unable to learn at a normal rate. Recently, it turned into a synonym for stupid. Unlike the others, it is still seen as offensive, while it would take someone very touchy to get annoyed at "lame" or "stupid".note 
      • Also, the only thing that can be retarded in this context is a human being, because 'retarded' is an abbreviation of 'retarded in mental development'. There is no such thing as 'retarded joke' or 'retarded behavior' (unless 'retarded' is used as synonym of 'delayed', as in the bomb example above).
  • Cretin: The most common derivation provided in English dictionaries is from the Alpine French dialect pronunciation of the word Chrétien, meaning Christian. Another misconception is that 'cretin' originally referred to the mainland Greeks' supposed low opinion of the inhabitants of Crete island. This is false: first, there is no mention of any persistent common prejudice directed to people from Crete from other Greeks, and second, in Greek, people from Crete are called 'Kretikoi', which would be transliterated to 'Cretics', not Cretans or Cretins.
  • Critic, incidentally, is unrelated to either; its root is the same as that of crisis and crime, among others: a verb meaning to distinguish between one thing and another. (A crisis is the moment of decision between two outcomes; criminal law distinguishes between what is and is not tolerated; a critic points out distinctions between good and bad art.) For this you tend to use criteria (which is the plural of criterion).
  • To beg the question is to commit a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises (e.g. "Of course I had a reason for doing it — otherwise, I wouldn't have done it!"). The phrase, however, is frequently used with the meaning "to raise the question" (e.g. "If you didn't put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy's chowder, it begs the question of who did."). The Latin name for it is petitio principii, literally, "assuming the initial point", they should have just called it "assuming the point" rather than "begging the question" for the fallacy's relation to circular reasoning. In general it implies something like "to request that one's opponent concede the initial point".
  • Moral equivalent: often, this phrase is used in the context of considering the metaphorical "scales" of ethics to be balanced: neither is more good (or bad) than the other. This is based on a misunderstanding (almost an inversion) of the intended meaning. William James wrote of "...war, or its moral equivalent." James meant that in modern societies war serves a purpose; the "moral equivalent" would be something which provides a similar function, but (unlike war) is not immoral.
  • Piloted Humongous Mecha are typically called Giant Robots despite the textbook definition of robot being "an autonomous device".
    • This goes for smaller ones too, like the machines in Battlebots and Robot Wars being remote-controlled rather than autonomous.
  • Some tropers have described the male counterpart to an Always Female trope as a Distaff Counterpart. Distaff, however, means specifically "female", not simply "gender-switched". This is derived from the distaff, a tool used in the traditionally-feminine job of spinning, as well as the inspiration for the female symbol (♀). The male equivalent would be the "Spear Counterpart".note 
  • Bar mitzvah literally translates to "son of the commandment," i.e. "one to whom the commandments apply", and so it is something that boys become. Therefore, you do not "have a bar mitzvah"; you have a celebration to commemorate becoming a bar mitzvah. And as any Jewish parent will tell you, planning one of these parties is like planning a wedding.
    • In addition, the plural, unisex way to say bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah is b'nai mitzvah (or b'nei mitzvah); however, because this is both plural and non-gender, no one "becomes" a b'nai mitzvah. You can go to one, as in, "I'm going to my cousins' b'nai mitzvah."
    • Also, a bar mitzvah is not when a Jewish boy is circumcised; that is on the eighth day, a bris mila (or b'rit mila, in non-Ashkenazi dialects). The confusion comes from the fact that in Africa, boys are typically circumcised at a much older age. And the word meaning "circumcision" is "mila", not "bris" (which simply means "covenant").
  • Penultimate means "next to last," but is sometimes incorrectly used to simply mean "last". Antepenultimate means "next to next to last," (or more simply, third to last), but is seldom used these days. The original word for last was ultimate (paene means 'almost'); however, all but the ultimate pedants have given up on convincing people that it means anything other than 'maximum'. Students of Latin are taught about the ultima, penult, and antepenult when it comes to placing the stress on the correct syllable of a word — but then again, students of Latin probably don't need "penultimate" explained to them. And many people seem to also be under the impression that "penultimate" means something along the lines of "even more ultimate", which doesn't even make sense.
  • Hysteric(al) reactions may be funny to onlookers, but its original meaning is not "funny." "Hysterical" was originally used to describe a woman suffering from "hysteria", a psychological state of excessive emotion, especially fear, originally believed to be exclusive to women and caused by disruptions of the uterus (the term literally translates as "womb-fury"). Specifically, the ancient Greeks believed that the uterus could somehow travel around the body and attack the other organs, presumably for no reason other than to make trouble for the men who would have to put up with the results. The word itself derives from the Greek word for uterus, from which we also get "hysterectomy". It was often treated by "pubic massage" — yes, that's what vibrators were invented for. They were used by doctors to induce a "hysterical paroxysm" i.e. orgasm, and the numerous euphemisms permitted the entire thing to be discussed by medical professionals back in Victorian times, as not only was it improper to discuss sexuality, it was thought females didn't even have any.
    • As late as the 1940s, hysteria was commonly used to mean, roughly, PMS. As late as the 1970's, reprinted house and garden handbooks from the 1940s included home remedies for hysteria.
  • The word work (as a noun) has many meanings in common usage, including something taking effort to produce, some form of artistic production or a job. However, in physics, 'work' means the amount of energy transferred by a force moving an object. This definition is much less known, and much less used.
    • Specifically, work is the force required to move something, integrated over the distance moved. These are very useful units for the engineering of devices, since they are to a degree independent of time and time is possibly the most annoying unit to deal with in design terms (it turns things into dynamic problems). As is probably obvious, expressing energy expenditure without referencing how long it takes to expend the energy isn't really that useful for common usage.
  • The distinction between amount and quantity is often ignored. You have an amount of a mass noun such as water or money, and a quantity of a countable noun such as dollars or shoes. The distinction between "less" and "fewer" is related to this; you'd say "less money" but "fewer shoes", which is why the sign at the supermarket aisle ought to read, "Twelve items or fewer," not "Twelve items or less".
  • Immolate means sacrifice. When a monk lights himself on fire to protest a war, he is engaging in "self-immolation" because he is killing himself to make a point, not because he is setting himself on fire. The root meaning was to sprinkle meal on the victim, in preparation for a sacrifice.
    • Dictionaries today show the fire-based definition as an acceptable secondary; you may now concern yourself with whether World of Warcraft had anything to do with this.
    • Interestingly enough, the original "Immolation" spell from Warcraft 3 required the Hero to constantly drain mana to burn nearby units, the use of the word was technically correct: The Demon Hunter hero was sacrificing mana.
  • You may have a family crest, if you can trace your family tree back to European gentry. But the crest is only the bit that stands on top of the helm (like the crest of a jaybird). In most European traditions the essential element is the shield, or escutcheon (in Germany, at some times, the crest(s) got much more emphasis than the shield; but in Romance-speaking countries crests were relatively rarely displayed at all). The full achievement may also include a motto and, for a noble, supporters (a pair of human, animal or monstrous figures standing beside the shield to prop it all up) and perhaps a coronet and pavilion (a fur-lined robe forming a tent around the whole). The original meaning of coat of arms was a tunic worn over armor to keep the sun off, which was painted in the same design as the shield, so the word coat is used for that design or, in the case of a composite shield, each of its quarters.
    • Some popular references claim that each charge (symbol) and tincture (color) has a specific meaning; and some crackpots say the same for each vowel and consonant in a language. The only thing we can be sure of is that arms often make puns (sometimes obscure) on part of the bearer's name. note 
    • In Japan, crest is a fair translation of mon because the primary emblem was displayed on helmets as well as elsewhere.
  • While lay is the actual past tense of lie, the former verb is often incorrectly used in place of the latter.
    • And the past tense of "lay" is "laid", not "layed". Just as in "getting laid". (The passive participle, in the nonsexy sense, is lain.)
    • And if you're going to use the transitive 'lay' (to put down something long or flat in a certain careful manner) reflexively, use a reflexive pronoun or it's wrong. "Go lay down" is bad; "Go lay yourself down" is fine, although its connotations are slightly different from those of "Go lie down".
  • The terms Internet and World Wide Web are often used interchangeably. The Internet is the network itself, over which all network protocols operate; the Web is just one of its applications, the set of servers that use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). If you open an instant messaging program or go play an online game, you're using the Internet but not the Web. This has become pedantic in that often the word Internet is used in place of Web — correctly, since a website is necessarily on the Internet. It's much more noticeable when switched around: if someone says Web or World Wide Web in reference to anything other than a website, you can expect anyone who understands this distinction to be all over it.
  • Human: This is a tough one because, here on Real Earth, several possible definitions all collapse to the same group. The term is widely taken to refer specifically to Homo sapiens sapiens, i.e. "us". However, among the accepted dictionary definitions include any member of the species Homo sapiens, which would also include the now-extinct archaic varies of H. sapiens, such as Neanderthals and Homo sapiens idaltu. Others include the entire genus Homo, picking up more of our ancestors, or even any member of Hominidae capable of speech. Whether species outside our branch of the genetic tree (i.e. sapient aliens, robots, magical beings, future species descended from H. sapiens sapiens, etc.) could be properly called "human" is entirely up for debate: as it hasn't come up yet in the real world, neither linguists nor lawyers have made a canonical decision. As a result, many phrases and idioms use the term "human" in a way that will be incorrect if a decision in one direction or the other is ever made ("Human rights" vs "Human anatomy" for example). Person, particularly in the legal sense, is even more ambiguous.
    • The philosophical definition of "man" is "rational (i.e. sapient; see above) animal." This is the way it is used in any context outside of scientifically-rigorous biology. In the genre of space opera, where there are sapient extraterrestrial species that communicate with the humans, the proper term to refer to us would be "Terrans," since Klingons / Turians / Ctarl-Ctarl / etc. are all "man."
  • Controversial should not be used to describe people, things, or ideas that are merely "shocking" or "in bad taste". The word literally means "likely to provoke dissent" (i.e. controversy) — and that dissent need not be bitter. That's why "controversial" does not always have to be a "negative" word, even though that's how it tends to be used. Since almost everyone disapproves of child pornography, for example, child pornography is not "controversial". You should use terms such as "scandalous" or "outrageous" instead. (But don't use "uproarious", because that term has incorrectly come to mean "extremely funny.")
  • Archaic does not simply mean old or outdated. It describes a word from an older language being used in a modern language in a specific sense, or something so old as to no longer be in use (for example, steam engine cars are archaic).
  • A manger is a feed trough. The little display with Jesus and Mary and Joseph in the stable can be called a "manger scene": there's generally a manger in it, but the whole thing isn't one.
  • Fundamentalist: Denotes somebody who puts a particular emphasis on the basic tenets of a doctrine as opposed to ideologies that might have a basis in that doctrine but are willing to question some basic tenets. It's really more a statement against revisionism than a statement for tradition and bigotry, it just usually ends up that way. A fundamentalist is, strictly speaking, somebody who emphasizes the fundamentals of an ideology, so it's not hard to see how this purist approach could lend itself to extremism.
    • Similarly, evangelical, in terms like "evangelical doctrine", just means "practicing evangelism". By that definition, many churches are evangelical, even if they don't consider themselves so and don't have the traits that most people consider "evangelical". Unfortunately this word has lost most of its usefulness by coming to mean the kind of church that still condemns dancing, throws fits about interracial marriage, and steadfastly maintains that the world was created in 7 days 6,000 years ago. (And in case you forgot what evangelism is, it means an emphasis on conversion and recruitment, literally to "spread the good news." In this way, even Hindus and Muslims could technically be evangelical, they just wouldn't use this word)
    • Also, radical means "pertaining to the root" (from radix, the Latin word for "root"), not "extreme". Radical movements seek to make radical (i.e. fundamental) changes in basic social structures, or they attempt a return to the "root" of a movement which they feel has diverged from its original purpose. Of course, radical movements are often prone to extremism.
  • Tsundere originally was a term created on the Internet to designate a character's personality change over time, usually catalyzed by a love interest. However, the term has been expanded to cover characters that have two distinct personality modes, harsh and sweet, whether or not the character actually changes as the story progresses.
    • Yandere, when used to describe males, is often used to describe any abusive Bastard Boyfriend. It originally referred specifically to an obsessive love. Anakin Skywalker is a yandere for his obsession with trying to save Padmé, not because he chokes her while Drunk on the Dark Side. It's also misused on females to imply a Knife Nut or crazy-murderous girls in general, even if love isn't part of the equation (Such as Asakura Ryouko). Meanwhile, cute, innocent, Ax-Crazy women (and sometimes men) are Cute and Psycho, since that does not require an object of affection to be yan over.
    • Kuudere is often thought to mean "Emotionless Girl". It's actually more of a "cool" approach to the tsundere character type. (That is, they may appear to be emotionless, until one gets to know them)
  • A miscarriage is an early term abortion. Both are medical terms for the termination of pregnancy and don't reflect any intent.
    • Popularly, a miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion (unintentional), while abortion is a medical procedure performed for the sole purpose of terminating a pregnancy (intentional).
  • Contemporary means of the same time. To use it without a temporal context is to invite the question, "contemporary with what?" If you use it as a synonym for modern, well — at least please be very careful that no other time, such as the lifetime of J. S. Bach, is mentioned or implied nearby.
    • It would be safer to use "present" or "current" if you want to be Very Pedantic. Technically, J. S. Bach's lifetime happened in the modern period too.
  • Regarding the word fetish, most people use it in the way it's defined on dictionary.com as well as in a few other dictionaries. That is, it's something normally unassociated with sex that that causes "habitual sexual arousal" in the observer and isn't something the fetishist necessarily has to have in order to become aroused. On the other hand, other dictionaries, such as Merriam Webster, explicitly state that it's something that needs to be present in order to arouse the fetishist. Those that use this definition argue that most people who claim to have a fetish actually have a kink instead, as it's rare for it to be that extreme. All of of this, of course, necessarily postdates the original use of the word; i.e., an idol or other artifact to which is ascribed supernatural qualities.
    • To say that you have a "Native American bear fetish" probably does not mean that you experience sexual arousal at the thought of bears belonging to tribes inhabiting the Americas before Europeans arrived (or that you can only be sexually aroused by a large, hairy, bearded gay man descended from one of said tribes). More likely, you have a carving or other artwork done by Native Americans to worship a mystic bear figure. Most likely.
  • Using the word sewer for storm drainage systems. Sewers carry sewage, everything that goes down the toilet, sink, dishwashing machine and bath or shower. Storm drains carry water that washes up on the street. The two are not the same, even though many writers of fiction and video game designers confuse the two. And even The Other Wiki lists another name for a storm drain in the US as "storm sewer". However, in the UK (or at least in England and Wales) 'sewer' denotes a public drain/channel rather than a private one. It can carry foul water or storm water, or both. This is a statutory definition.
    • On the contrary, this use as only for waste water is inaccurate to its original use as "conduit" from the Anglo-French word "sewere."
  • To be electrocuted or to suffer electrocution is to be outright killed by an electric shock, not to simply receive one; indeed, the word was coined by Thomas Edison as a portmanteau of "electric" and "execute", after "to westinghouse" failed to catch on (a Take That against his AC-inventing rival). But because of the confusion the phrase "electrocuted to death" could be used if you want to emphasize that yes, the person died.
    • Similarly, "execute" does not mean to kill but to carry out; The executive branch executes the laws. It also executes capital (death) sentences. Its use to refer to capital punishment is basically a Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness version of organized crime using "do" as a euphemism for killing.
  • A dropkick is either kicking someone with both feet at the same time, or dropping a ball and kicking it after it bounces, depending on whether you're talking about professional wrestling or football. It doesn't mean just any kick that makes someone fall down.
    • Or, in martial arts, an inverted side kick. (Sometimes also an axe-kick.)
  • Scrum is derived from the words scrimmage or skirmish which mean something to the general effect of "disorganized fighting". In Rugby a scrum is one of the most organized things that can happen during play. The eight (in Rugby Union: six in Rugby League) forwards from each team bind against each other in an extremely organized fashion and perform a sort of reverse tug of war to contest the possession of the ball. The formation is very organized and players deviating from their position within the scrum will result in penalties. One of the most common things a non-rugby sports commentator likes to say is "that's an old fashioned rugby scrum!" when a play turns into chaos and the players pile up on top of each other. The funny thing is, if they took out "rugby" they'd be accurate as the rugby definition of a scrum deviates from the standard "skirmish" route. It's kind of a double subversion.
  • Apocryphal means "of uncertain truth." Something cannot be "probably apocryphal" unless you're admitting you yourself didn't check the facts on its general acceptance; the word implies uncertainty, albeit sufficient uncertainty to reject it as historical fact, but not falsehood per se. One or two contemporary accounts or products could (and very often have) rocket most "apocryphal" events into widespread acceptance.
  • The word chef is widely used to refer to any cook regardless of rank, but it is the shortened version of the french term chef de cuisine, the head or director of a kitchen. The word "chef" comes from the Latin word caput ("head"), so "head chef" really means "head head" (though, if we want to be true pedants, one might argue the "head" in "head chef" means "top" or "most important" metaphorically). Only the highest ranking cook in the whole kitchen is the chef.
  • Longswords are not arming swords, and broadsword is not a synonym for either. The typical arming sword have long since been called longswords or broadswords in tabletop games, video games, books, films, and so many other forms of media, but in actuality you could not find bigger differences between the two. A longsword has more in common with a hand-and-a-half bastard sword except longer, having gotten the name due to their length. A broadsword, likewise, is descended from a rapier and boasts the same type of intricate hilt and handle, but with a much broader blade. Worse, now they're starting to become the "normal" term, as people are generally far more familiar with the term of "longsword" or "broadsword" than "arming sword".
  • Hackers, as in "those who hack", is a term for relatively skillful programmers (generally; certain non-programmers may also qualify) who find ways to use hardware or software for things it was not originally intended for (which may or may not be illegal), and who often see themselves as doing a public service by bringing security flaws to public attention. Hackers find offensive the popular use of the term "hacker" in reference to warez groups or malicious intruders, and prefer the word "cracker" for such. The fact remains though, that both terms are essentially arbitrary labels - it's not as though "hacking" means something nicer than "cracking"- and to the vast majority of people hackers means crackers.
    • Despite the opinions of the hobbyists and proponents of the Hacker Culture, a given dictionary definition of "Hacker" is one who "attempts to gain unauthorized access to proprietary computer systems" (though that does not necessarily imply malice).
    • Note that the original meaning above is still in use in certain cases. One notable use is kernel hacking, as this requires a high degree of programming skill and many members of this group consider themselves to be hackers.
    • Hacker is also heavily used in video game culture to define someone that cheats. Very rarely do online video game cheaters use any actual hack. Most people that cheat in games use 3rd party programs that simply alters the game's coding. Hacker is also used to insult other players that are suspected of cheating, even if the accused are not cheating.
    • "Hacking" is also used to refer to any form of control of someone's logged-in account or outright gaining access to someone's username and password. Apparently, using someone's computer while they're using the bathroom and firing up their browser to post things under their Facebook account that is already logged in constitutes hacking.
      • Admittedly a lot of hacking that's actually led to charges involved similarly mundane things—or calling people up and claiming to be a customer who'd forgotten their password.
  • Beta is often used to refer to a video game in any development stage before it's released. It's actually the "feature complete" stage, just when it's about to be ready for release. The focus is impact and usability. It is not equivalent to a video game only being part way finished. Alpha testing is (as the name suggests) the testing of the unfinished software by the development team prior to the beta release. Gamma or Release Candidate refers software that is finished and ready for official release, barring any major bugs.
  • Manipulation is not inherently insidious. It means "to influence, direct, or control something to one's advantage", which need not be negative or even self-centered, just that it produces a net benefit to you. Dextrous manipulation, for instance, means to use your hands to make an object do what you want it to do. But one way of using the simplified meaning is for categorical opponents of genetic research to insist on referring to the practice as "genetic manipulation" to make it sound desirably sinister.
  • ASCII (see Wikipedia) is a character-encoding scheme. Text User Interface is used a lot in Roguelikes, and because of that, text-based graphics are often referred to as "ASCII" even if they use a different scheme like EBCDIC or an "extended ASCII"note  scheme such as CP437 or Unicode.
    • Likewise, in the Windows world, "ANSI" is used to refer to the Windows-1252 encoding, especially as opposed to "Unicode" (itself actually a specific Unicode encoding).note  It is not actually an ANSI standard.
  • The word claymore does not refer to a specific type of sword. The word is a corruption of the Scots Gaelic phrase claidheamh mòr, which means big sword. It is commonly used to describe both the late medieval two-handed swords, and the 17th- and 18th century scottish basket-hilted broadswords, because both kinds were longer and heavier than the norm for swords at the time.
  • Otaku. In the Western world, this somehow became the word for "anime fan". In Japan, it's a (pejorative) word for geek or someone who's a little too into their hobby (love to watch a lot of movies that it begins to affect your personal life? You're a cinema otaku). The etymology gets muddled too since while it does mean "house", it does not refer to a literal house (as a result of this confusion, people thought the word was a reference to shut-ins) but a figurative word for "clan" or something like that.
  • Anime is Japanese for animation. That's it. There never was a special distinction between anime and other cartoons but in the West, it gets its own category just because the art has certain similarities with each other. Technically, there's no such thing as "anime art". The Simpsons or Disney would also be called anime in Japan.
    • On a similar note, manga just means comics. Any comic.
  • Parkour is getting from point A to point B while conserving energy. Free-running is getting from point A to point B while doing fancy acrobatics.
  • In cuisine, an entrée is not an appetizer. In traditional French cuisine, the main course was le rotí, which consisted of a roast cut of meat, or a fowl, which was carved at the table, and les entrées were all courses eaten before le rotí. Very few restaurants, even in France, serve rotí-style main courses nowadays, but the tradition of calling the other dishes entrées remains.
    • Note: This only applies to American English. Entrée is the French term for "the dish before the main dish" (while an "appetizer" is an "apéritif"), and Commonwealth English follows modern French usage.
  • Isotope. The proper term for its common use is nuclide — that is, a substance with a fixed number of protons and neutrons. Isotopes are two or more substances with the same number of protons and different numbers of neutrons — that is, the difference is like between a boy and a brother — the latter can only be used as a comparative to something else.
  • Queer's original and proper meaning is 'strange' or 'suspicious', but over time it has evolved - or devolved - to mean the same thing that 'gay' now means, 'homosexual'. It is used in other contexts to refer to other kinds of abnormal sexualities and gender types (as in "New Queer Cinema").
  • Enormity is traditionally defined along the lines of "The great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something generally considered to be morally wrong." It does not simply mean "seriousness", and it certainly doesn't just mean "big." For example, "The policeman grew nauseous as he realized the enormity of the crime" is correct. "The crowd stood in awe at the enormity of the tower" is not, unless the tower is somehow inherently evil.
    • However, enormous lost the meaning of evilness and nowadays just means "very big". Some authorities say the same thing happened to "enormity"; languages change.
    • Speaking of errors this page likes to point out: the policeman may have grown nauseated (stricken with nausea), but probably not nauseous (capable of causing nausea).
  • A Statute of Limitations is a law which lays down how much time you have to bring a civil action, or for there to be a criminal prosecution. It is not the time period itself. When people say "the statute of limitations is about to expire", this makes no sense unless the law itself is about to get turfed with a sunset clause. One of the limitation periods that the statute lays down might be expiring, though. Only moderately pedantic, though, as "the statute of limitations is about to expire on that" is less passive than "that is about to expire under the statute of limitations", so some style guides might prefer the former while acknowledging the inaccuracy. Indeed, within the legal profession, "the statute of limitations has run/passed" is not only perfectly valid, but is preferred usage (in the US at least) when talking about time-barred actions. (In informal legal usage, lawyers will usually abbreviate it and say the action is SOLed—meaning not only "statute of limitations" but also "shit outta luck.")
  • Socialism refers to an economic system wherein the "means of production" are owned or managed in common, to some degree or other. Communism originally meant "revolutionary socialism" in general, but since Karl Marx's time, it has almost always been used to identify adherents to Marx's theories, or of his and his successors (such as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, or Mao).
    • As with all such terms, there's a wide range in how they're used in practice. Policy positions that might be called "socialist" in one country would not be seen that way in another.note  And any move towards increased common control over any industry could be called a move toward socialism (by its supporters if the term "socialism" is popular, by its opponents if the term is unpopular).
    • The terms are also used differently in specialized areas. In Marxist theory, for example, "communism" refers to the end state of socialism, in which production is so abundant that neither government nor money is needed. "Communist" governments, by their own self-understanding, did not govern "communist" countries, but rather governed socialist countries that (it was believed) would progress towards communism.
  • If you're talking about whether two facts are in accord, you might ask whether they "jibe with" each other. ("jibe" is a nautical term.) You wouldn't ask whether they jive with each other, unless you're asking whether they're grooving to that funky music.
  • Casual, by its original definition, meant irregular or occasionally, which fits well with a person that does something every now and then instead of doing it regularly. Nowadays, people use casual, in terms of video games or other forms of entertainment activity, as an insult towards people that do not dedicate their time to an activity and even many video games have begun to use casual to mean "easy".
  • Gimmick originally meant something that is designed to draw in attraction and amusement. People today now use gimmick as way of saying "this has a gimmick, therefore, it sucks." While there can be misuse of gimmicks that make it bad overall, most people that slam something for being gimmicky or relying on a gimmick do so because there's a gimmick and not because the gimmick itself was bad.
  • Rape means to commit sexual intercourse on a person who either did not legally consent (as in, they said no) or could not legally consent to the act (as in, they were drunk, asleep or Jail Bait), or to plunder or raze a country in a violent manner. For centuries the word "rape" commonly meant "take by force" and could be applied to both people and objects. People now use rape to describe someone utterly destroying another person in a game, despite the fact that there's no sexual activity involved at all (the usage is entirely figurative here, but still laced with Unfortunate Implications).
    • The "plunder and raze" definition, while still correct, is rarely used these days.
  • Animation is not just a filming style involving showing progressive drawings at a fast pace to simulate movement. It is anything which can be described as "lively, vibrant, or capable of movement". Only moderately pedantic because the old use is still remembered, especially in the antonym "inanimate", but confusion still tends to arise when speaking of things like "animated corpses".
  • Pristine is typically used by most people to simply mean "clean," as opposed to the word's actual meaning which is "a thing which is virtually unchanged from its original form." In other words, a dirty hunk of raw hematite ore fresh out of the ground is "pristine" but if you smelt it into a geometrically perfect iron bar and polish it up really nice then it is no longer pristine at all. This one is moderately pedantic because at this point most people seem to have forgotten the word's actual meaning, but it's not completely pedantic because this meaning is definitely worth keeping; we already have more than enough words that mean "clean" (for example, "clean") but very few words that mean the same thing as "pristine."
  • Literal is used often for emphatic filler, regardless of whether the situation described is a concrete demonstration of an expression that is meant allegorically or whether the term has both concrete and allegorical meanings for the definition to apply to. Examples:
    • He literally has no shoes! - If you mean he's in possession of no shoes, on his feet or elsewhere, that's as concrete as it gets. If there's a metaphorical meaning 'without shoes' signifies, it's not a commonly accepted one.
    • They literally fell in love! - 'Love' is an abstract, so they can't land in any literal love. Did gravity literally yank them down into an emotional state of mutual attraction and affection?
  • Cryogenics is a branch of physics dealing with the production of extremely cold temperatures and the way that certain materials react within those temperatures. It's often mistakenly used in place of cryonics, the practice of freezing organic tissue to prevent it from decaying.
  • 'Osmosis is the process by which water moves through a semi-permeable membranenote  from a highly concentrated solution to a lower concentrated one. Because plants use this process to absorb water, it's sometimes used to describe anything being absorbed.
  • Tempering is a word often used to denote process of making something harder, literally or figuratively (e.g. 'tempering courage in the heat of battle'). Metals and alloys are hardened in the process called hardening and consisting of heating the object to high temperature where the metal is malleable and then quickly quenching it. Tempering is a process or heating in relatively low temperatures (~500 F for steel) for a longer period of time to make the object slightly softer but way less brittle and more elastic.

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