Common expressions often misspelt by Angela Caldin

It’s not baited breath; it’s bated breath. It’s not that your breath has some kind of bait attached to it; the idea is that your breath is held or restrained. Bated is a shortened version of abated which means to lessen. It’s not free reign; it’s free rein. This is a straightforward misinterpretation and an understandable mistake. We have a notion of reigning kings and queens doing as they please, that is, having free reign. But the rein in this expression is the strap used by a rider to control a horse…. Read More

Words sometimes confused – climatic and climactic by Angela Caldin

One letter makes a big difference Climatic is an adjective which means relating to climate and climate refers to the average atmospheric conditions that prevail in a given region making it generally cold and wet or hot and dry, for example. There is still some scepticism about the claim that our carbon footprints are on course to lead to climatic extremes. The climatic conditions led to the heaviest rainfall for many years which caused extensive flooding. Drought and famine in some African countries can be attributed in part to climatic changes. Climactic… Read More

Mutating idioms by Angela Caldin

He did it off his own back You hear that a lot these days, so much so that it’s entered into common use. In fact, the original expression is ‘He did it off his own bat’. The bat in question is a cricket bat and the first activity that was said to be done ‘off someone’s own bat’ was to score runs. The idiom conveys the idea of someone doing something independently, without prompting. Each one worse than the next This phrase makes no sense if you pause to think about the… Read More

Similes and metaphors by Angela Caldin

What’s the difference? Both similes and metaphors are used to make writing more interesting by using striking comparisons. The difference between them comes down to two words. Similes use the words like or as to compare things: The thunder sounded like several fireworks going off at once. In contrast, metaphors directly state a comparison, as in Katy Perry’s song: Baby, you’re a firework! Here are some other examples of similes and metaphors: Life is like a box of chocolates. (Simile) My life is an open book. (Metaphor) The dancer’s hands fluttered like… Read More

Words sometimes confused: incredible and incredulous by Angela Caldin

Incredible means that something is difficult to believe whereas incredulous means that someone is unwilling or unable to believe. So something that seems unbelievable or implausible is incredible, but if you have trouble believing something, you are incredulous. The word incredible is often overused to describe something astounding. It applies to an unbelievable situation, while incredulous applies to an unbelieving person rather than a situation. They paused for a few minutes to admire the incredible sunset, fiery red and brilliant orange against the darkening sky. Maradona was an amazing footballer with fantastic… Read More