WhiteManDenySignAt this time of year, many conversations begin or end with one of these expressions: Season's Greetings... Merry Christmas... Happy Hanukkah... Happy Holidays... Happy New Year! This got me thinking about other expressions that are routinely inserted into conversations, not just over the holidays, but throughout the year (to spice things up).

Expressions can help you communicate a message effectively – and in an entertaining way. When you use the right expression, your audience is more likely to understand the message you want to convey. But a misused expression will confuse readers and listeners. It can send a message that is the exact opposite of what you're trying to say. Let's look at some expressions that are commonly misused. When you know the origin of an expression, you're more likely to remember (and use) the correct version.

Hopefully, this will pique your curiosity about using expressions correctly. Just remember that to pique means "to prick or stimulate", which should not be confused with the mountain's peak (meaning "apex"), or peek (meaning "glimpse").

You might be thinking, "I could care less about misused expressions." That's wrong on two counts. First of all, it's not a good attitude to have. You should care about getting expressions right and using them correctly. Besides, the correct phrase is "I could not care less". What you're trying to convey is that you don't care at all – not one bit – about this or any other topic. You care about (fill in the blank) so little that it's not possible for you to care about it any less. When you say "I could care less", you're saying that it is possible for you to care less. The exact opposite of what you are trying to say!

Are you "waiting with 'bated breath" to see what expressions you're misusing? Be sure you're not "waiting with baited breath". People might assume you went fishing and ate the "live" lures. The expression has nothing to do with fishing lines and lures. When you hold your breath waiting for something, your ability to breathe is temporarily abated (or 'bated).

"For all intents and purposes", you communicate more effectively when you use expressions correctly. It sounds almost the same, but it's wrong to say "for all intensive purposes".

The word intensive is often associated with pain. But there's no such thing as a hunger pain. So don't fall into that trap. When you have severe muscle contractions that gnaw at you and send a signal to your brain that it's time for dinner, they are "hunger pangs".

Speaking of hunger, "just deserts" means someone got what they deserve. It sounds like desserts (a delicious cake or pie). But if you think it's spelled the same as a tasty after-dinner treat, "you've got another think coming" (or "you've got another thought coming"). The phrase suggests that you re-think something. So it's incorrect to say "you've got another thing coming".

If you say two things are "one and the same", you're referring to something that is exactly like something else. "One in the same" doesn't make any sense.

A rambunctious puppy might "wreak havoc" in your house if left unsupervised. Wreak means "to cause" and it sounds like "reek". But it's incorrect to say "reeking havoc". It's also wrong to say "wrecking havoc", even though your house might look like a wreck when you return.

"Sleight of hand" refers to the dexterity of a magician who moves his or her hands in a carefully concealed way while doing tricks with cards or coins. A magician's performance has nothing to do with the actual size of his or her hands. It's not "slight of hand".

You cannot "take something for granite" – unless you're bartering something in exchange for a granite "statue of limitations" (which is actually "statute of limitations"). If something is not being shown adequate appreciation, it is being "taken for granted".

"Coming down the pike" is correct. The saying refers to something approaching from the turnpike, but that abbreviation is not used very much anymore. On the other hand, "pipe" conjures images of new data streaming through digital channels (a high-tech pipeline, if you will). Even though it might make sense, "coming down the pipe" is incorrect.

After reading this, you might be thinking "shoulda, coulda, woulda...." You should have (or should've) known this before now (it's wrong to say should of). You could have (or could've) been communicating better if you'd had this information before now (it's not could of). You would have (or would've) been using these expressions correctly if you'd known their origins and background stories (would of is incorrect).

Now it's your turn. Tell us what often misused expressions are pet peeves of yours – CLICK HERE to share your favorites!

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