Stupid Things I Found Online Today

I just can’t get over my addiction to AOL.  I don’t even use AOL to read my email any more, having linked my AOL account to my Microsoft Outlook email manager, but I still visit AOL everyday to see what they think is going on, just like millions of other people do.  I would call AOL one of my guilty pleasures, like Pinterest, places I visit even though I know they are just time wasters.  I don’t go to AOL to find out what’s really going on.  I go to AOL to see just how badly AOL is misinforming its readers about what’s going on in the world.

I am, you see, a self-appointed fact checker, one of millions who go out on the internet everyday, trolling for misinformation to correct…and ensure is accurate. Here is my catch for today:

AOL has been running this feature story entitled, “21 phrases you’ve been saying wrong your entire life,” some of which are so dead up wrong that it isn’t even funny.  Well, no, actually, they are funny.

The first problem is that the article is supposed to be about things you’ve been saying wrong but several of their examples are actually homophones, words that sound the same but have different meanings and are spelled differently.  Here are some of their prize misapprehensions:

homophone 1






This one is wrong because “phase” and “faze” are homophones, sounding alike, having different meanings, and are spelled differently…and both are correct, within the limitations of their meaning. “It didn’t faze me” is a common “cant” expression, but there are circumstances in electrical engineering when one might say, “It didn’t phase me, ” and really mean exactly that.

homophone 2






This one isn’t quite a homophone, because the words”thing” and “think”  are spelled different, sound different, and obviously have different meanings, but both are correct in different contexts. because you could have another thing coming in the mail from Amazon but you might need to rethink whether or not you – or someone who lives with you and shares your budget – really want that thing.

homophone 3






Wrong again.  “Reign” and “rein” are, once again, homophones, words that look different but sound alike so that it is actually impossible to say this phrase wrong regardless of which spelling is used. This is also a very rare homophone because, while the words are pronounced the same but look different, their meanings are so closely associated that one might be forgiven for confusing the two since he or she who reigns also holds the reins of state.

homophone 4






Sorry, AOL, but you’re wrong, again. “Low” and “lo” are homophones  so that either reading of the sentence would sound exactly the same as the other reading.  Extra credit: “Lo” is one of those words that don’t actually mean anything, but is usually defined as a directive to look at something and be surprised by it.

homophone 5






This one is simply dead up wrong, at least for the past 100 years. People used to say “spit and image” in reference to the biblical comment that God made man with “spit and mud in his own image,” but – unless you are around 125 years old, you would be wrong to say “spit and image” today, unless that was what you really meant to say.

homophone 6






“Could” and “couldn’t” aren’t even homophones, but they do mean two different things, either of which can be correct in the proper context.  Again, this is an example of “cant,” a commonly used word or phrase that has an understood meaning.  In this case, the cant expression,  “I couldn’t care less,” means “I don’t care” while “I could care less” means “I care too much,” but either is correct in context.

By now, you may be getting tired of this exercise, but there is an important point to be made here. When we allow companies like AOL to tell us  how we should speak – and then LET THEM get it wrong over and over again – illustrates the extent to which contemporary education has failed to perform its function of creating and maintaining our common language, so perhaps that will….er….pique your interest:

homophone 7







Sorry, AOL, this is another homophone, “Peak” and “pique” are pronounced the same, so that no one listening to  you would know whether you meant “peak” or “pique” when you use either of these words in conversation.  So, the question is, “Have I piqued your interest by annoying you with my peckishness, or is has your desire for word play peaked?”  I rather wonder how they missed the point that “peek” and “peak” are more often confused than “peak” and “pique.”


homophone 8






This one is actually correct. “Mute” and “moot: are not homophones because they are pronounced differently, but a “mute” point would be one that couldn’t speak, while a “moot” point is open to debate. Pun intended, but this does bring us to our final point….

homophone 9






“Piece” and “peace” are true homophones, having the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings, with no room for confusion, “piece” being a part of something, while “peace” refers to the absence of differences.

AOL’s grade on this exercise?  A rather insipid 62%, which isn’t very good for people who purport themselves to be professional editors.

FINAL TAKEAWAY:  While AOL was dead wrong in 38% of its examples, these caveats only refer to the use of these phrases in verbal communication. In written communications, they were exactly, well, almost exactly right in most of the cases. They were wrong about “spitting image.” If you go around saying “spit and image” or writing “spit and image,” people are going to think there might be something wrong with you…and they might be right.