My Favourite Misheard Expressions

Dog Bites ManLike misheard song lyrics, misheard expressions can be so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even notice them. If “Rock the cat box” (re: Rock the Casbah) sounds perfectly fine to many an ear, then what’s wrong with “all intensive purposes” (re: all intents and purposes) or “hone in on” (re: home in on)?

When you say them out loud, they sound more or less okay—in fact, it’s often hard to tell that they’re not on the money. That’s the beauty of misheard expressions. But once you get them down on the page, there’s no fooling anyone.

Here are some of my favourites!

Mute point: I like this expression because it actually makes sense. If there’s nothing more to say on a subject, then the point might truly be mute (instead of “moot”). Write that in an article, and it’s sure to earn you a few irate comments.

Coup de gras: I saw this in a manuscript the other day. I like the image—a big, fatty blow. Alas, I had to edit it down to a leaner “coup de grâce.”

Case and point: This misheard expression holds water if you’re robbing a bank: first you case the joint, then you point your gun. If not, opt for “case in point.”

Take for granite: Where I come from, there’s a lot of granite in the ground, so it’s understandable that many things might be taken for granite. But if you’re not working in a quarry, it’s best to use the proper expression “taken for granted.”

Nip it in the butt: An error that paints a biting image! Sadly, we can’t solve life’s problems by taking a chunk out of the derrières of those we don’t like. But we can pluck the buds of the weeds that grow in our gardens so that they don’t get out of hand.



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