DR. ENGLISH: Misspoken Phrases 

It’s pretty common for people to mishear a word or phrase and then go on to use it improperly, and it’s also pretty common for those who recognize the corruption to say nothing about it, so as not to offend the user.

Just a few you may be familiar with:

An early adapter : would be someone among the first to modify something for a new purpose. What’s almost always meant is early adopter; someone who is among the first to start using something new, like an iPhone.

Take a different tact : makes no sense. What’s meant is take a different tack, which refers to the course taken by a boat; generally a zigzag course when heading into the wind.

Unchartered waters : could mean water that charter boats aren’t seen in an area. The correct expression – uncharted waters – refers to new areas that have not yet been mapped (a map being a chart). The phrase is also used metaphorically to indicate a new situation for a person.

Throws of passion : could refer to what Stephen Strasburg hurls for the Washington Nationals, but when pitching woo is the topic, it’s throes of passion.

All and all is used by people who are trying to express “In summary” but don’t realize that all in all is the phrase that does it.

Butt-naked : is used (incorrectly) because the correct phrase – buck-naked – doesn’t seem to make sense. (“Buck” was a term used sarcastically to refer to African-American slaves and American Indians, who, at the time the word was applied, were imagined as savages in the woods.)