Ah, the English language.  It can be complicated, even for native speakers.  And when it comes to sayings… it seems we’re really good at messing those up! Apparently, they are called “eggcorns,” a mispronunciation of “acorns.”  This word is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase either on its own or as part of a set expression.” According to Matador Network, there are at least 14 sayings you may get wrong. Check them out below!


  • "Nip Something In The Butt."

    The actual phrase is: “Nip it in the bud.” And it refers to stopping something immediately so it doesn’t get worse.


  • "To Pass Mustard."

    This phrase should actually be: “To pass muster.” Muster is an inspection or examination… we’re not talking about passing a condiment at dinner.  It’s about gaining approval or acceptance!

  • "Soaping Wet."

    It’s actually: “Soaking wet.” If you were “soaping,” you’d be adding soap to something.  Soaking is about something saturated with fluid.

  • "To All Intensive Purposes."

    It feels like this is a common one! It should be: “To all intents and purposes.” This is a wordy phrase that usually means “essentially,” “in effect,” or “in almost every respect.”

  • "Mute Point."

    Another one that’s common.  The phrase is actually: “Moot point.” Mute means lack of speech.  Moot is about claims or logic that are questionable.

  • "Biting Your Time."

    The correct term is “Biding your time.”  Biting is something you do with your mouth.  Biding means you’re waiting.  The phrase basically means to wait for a good opportunity before doing something.

  • "Dull As Dishwater."

    This should actually be: “Dull as ditch water.” Sure, dishwater and ditch water are both dull… but ditch water is a bit more grimy, enhancing the impact. Basically you’re saying someone or something is extremely dull and/or boring.

  • "Old Wise Tale"

    Your grandpa might tell you some old WISE tales… but the correct phrase is “Old wives’ tale.”  These are usually beliefs not based on actual facts.

  • "Wheelbarrel."

    It’s actually a “wheelbarrow.” Maybe this one happened due to a deep Southern accent?

  • "Nerve Wrecking."

    This one could be correct if you think of all the things that damage our nervous systems.  But the actual phrase is “nerve-racking.”  This means causing suffering through torture, pain, anguish, or ruin. While similar in nature, the correct term is “nerve-racking.”

  • "Illicit A Response."

    Illicit actually means illegal, which makes this phrase senseless.  The phrase is “Elicit a response.” You’re taking action to get someone to act.

  • "Expresso."

    Yes, it’s actually “Espresso.”  But you do have to wonder if this is an accent related mistake we’ve just stuck with!

  • "Damp Squid."

    We’d never actually heard this one.  Apparently it’s a British expression.  Of course a squid is an ocean creature.  The correct phrase is “Damp Squib.” A “quib” is a small firecracker. Basically it means “something is disappointing because it’s not as exciting or effective.”

  • "On Tender Hooks"

    It should actually be “On Tenterhooks.”  These are a type of hooked nails.  Tender hooks make no sense when you realized the meaning of the phrase is “In a state of uneasiness, strain, or suspense.”

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