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Language is an evolving beast. That crazy kid Shakespeare made up words all the time and he’s the darling of English teachers everywhere. With that said, it is nice to know the rules before you go around destroying them.

Travesty

If used properly, the correct response to “it really is a travesty” is “LOLz! Right?!” Because though it’s become common to think travesty equates to tragedy, it actually means a mockery, parody or a straight out absurd notion. And darling, we all know there is nothing worse than being basic.

For all intensive purposes

It’s ‘for all intents and purposes’ and it means in every practical sense. There is nothing intensive about it.

Irregardless

We don’t know who started with irregardless, but we wish they hadn’t. It’s not a real word. Whacky new words are great but this one is terrible to look at and even worse to hear. It’s just ‘regardless’. Save yourself a syllable, and your audience their sanity.

Enormity

Enormity = extreme evil, not enormousness.

Former US President George Bush famously misused this word in the most HILARIOUS way possible by saying he couldn’t believe the ‘enormity of the situation’ after being elected. Oh, the LOLz. You’re such a card, George.

 

Chronic

It doesn’t mean ‘bad’ or even ‘very bad’. Chronic is a medical phrase that means ‘long term’. Unless your tequila-induced headache has been ongoing since 1984, I think what you actually mean to say is ‘acute’ headache, not chronic headache.

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Decimate 

According to the Romans, punishment is best served with precision. Decimate comes from the slaughter of one in ten men in an opposing army (deci = a tenth). If something is completely wiped out the better word is ‘devastate’ or just straight up ‘destroyed’. By all means, if you’re saying ‘ten percent of that thing was wiped out and I’m a little bummed about it’, then carry on using decimate like it ain’t nothing but a thang.

Could of, would of, should of

That cheeky little preposition does not belong here. You actually mean could’ve, would’ve, should’ve – as in short for could have, would have, should have.

Peruse

If you get to a meeting and your boss says ‘did you read that 3,000 page report?’ don’t say ‘oh, I perused it…’ meaning ‘no’. Because peruse means you read that report in depth as though your life depended on it. You will be quizzed, and you will fail, and it will be the worst day ever.

Random

Here’s one for the kids. Random is an adjective that means something happened without method or conscious decision. That time you got your boyfriend’s name tattooed on your wrist wasn’t RaNdOm, it was stupid, or in the very least, ill-conceived.

Nauseous

You’re not nauseous, you’re nauseated. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Nauseous means ‘to cause nausea’, so unless you’re making the people around you vom, I think you mean to say ‘I ate an entire tub of chocolate ice-cream with a bag of corn chips and now I’m nauseated.’

Epic

It’s a really long poem, or in an informal sense, an exceptionally long, arduous task. Perhaps if your tale about last weekend’s shenanigans is delivered in iambic pentameter with a few clever metaphors I’ll consider it epic. Otherwise it’s just another long story.

Now go forth and use your words beautifully. The world will thank you. If you’ve got any commonly misused words that get your goat, share them with us. We’ll cringe along together.

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