- I called the police to diffuse the bomb so people won’t die. (Murderer!)
Malapropism again! This is the opposite of what is intended. To diffuse is to spread, distribute, circulate, etc. To defuse is to remove the fuse (from a bomb) in order to prevent it from exploding. Therefore:
I called the police to defuse the bomb so people won’t die.
Further examples of Malapropism:
- Terrorists commit hair-rising crimes. (Terrorist hairdressers?)
Terrorists commit crimes that are so bizarre that they raise your hair in alarm, fear, horror or disgust. Therefore:
Terrorists commit hair-raising crimes.
- Cell phone makers have spread their testicles all over the world. (Suicide mission!)
This ridiculous sentence is born out of the wrong use of testicles instead of tentacles (feelers, branches, network). Therefore:
Cell phone makers have spread their tentacles all over the world.
- We shall get married in dew time. (What about winter season?)
What is intended is, we shall get married in due (the appropriate, mature, right) time. Both words are pronounced in the same way [djuː].Therefore:
We shall get married in due time.
- Corrupt legislators are a course to their constituencies. (Elective or core course?)
Course [kɔːs] is used here instead of curse [kəːs]. Note that they are not pronounced in the same way. Therefore:
Corrupt legislators are a curse to their constituencies.
- He tried to rob his wealth in their faces. (Robbin Hood)
Rub [rʌb] and not rob [rɒb]. The idiomatic expression ‘to rub in the face’ means to flaunt; to display in an obscene manner. The two words sound the same but are not pronounced in the same way nor do they mean the same thing. To rob is to violently dispossess someone of a belonging while to rub is to apply pressure on a surface in a to and fro motion. Therefore:
He tried to rub his wealth in their faces.
- He spent a whooping sum of 1 million dollars on his Ferrari. (contagious sum?)
The problem here is the use of whooping which means ‘sounding like the hoot of an owl’; as in a whooping cough, which is contagious. The correct word in the context is whopping (which means ‘huge, massive, enormous, gigantic’, etc) Therefore:
He spent a whopping sum of 1 million dollars on his Ferrari.
Other wrong expressions:
- The car does not worth 1 million dollars. (Does it?)
A common mistake in English: The verb-to-do used instead of the verb-to-be. The car does something. E.g. The car moves fast – does move fast. Or the car can be something. E.g. The car is expensive. Therefore:
The car is not worth 1 million dollars.
- The country has nine presidential aircrafts. (What a waste!)
Aircraft is aircraft, singular or plural. It is a collective word like sheep or cattle. Therefore:
The country has nine presidential aircraft.
NOTE, however, that aircrafts may be used when talking about different types of aircraft.
Also, Cattle can only be used in the plural and not in the singular: it is a plurale tantum. Thus one may refer to “three cattle” or “some cattle“, but not “one cattle“. No universally used singular form in modern English of “cattle” exists, other than the sex- and age-specific terms such as cow, bull, steer and heifer.
- I wouldn’t put it beneath Katu to have sabotaged the plan. (Traitor!)
Wrong idiomatic expression: What is intended is; I wouldn’t put it past/beyond Katu……; which means the suspicion stops with Katu, as he is quite capable of committing the act. Therefore:
I wouldn’t put it beyond/past Katu to have sabotaged the plan.
He talked to her with his hands at akimbo. (Long hands!)
Two errors: The correct expression is arms (not hands) akimbo. The preposition at has no place in the expression. The adjective akimbo, pronounced “uh-KIM-bo,” means “at a sharp angle” — a description for how your arms look when elbows bent, you have your hands on your hips. The hands are the part of the arm with fingers while the arm is the whole body part from shoulder to fingers. It’s the same with foot and leg. Therefore:
He talked to her with his arms akimbo.
- Seriously injured people should be taken to the hospital immediately. (Call 911)
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this sentence. However, it is liable to misinterpretation, depending on the reader. If the reader pauses after the first word ‘seriously’, the meaning changes. In a sentence, a pause is usually indicated by a comma. Without a comma after ‘seriously’, the sentence means:
- People that are seriously (very or extremely) injured should be taken to the hospital immediately.
But with a comma: Seriously, injured people should be taken to the hospital immediately, the meaning becomes:
- Sincerely, (as a matter of fact – without joking), injured people should be taken to the hospital immediately (whether they are seriously injured or not).
This is a case of AMBIGUITY, which we shall be taking a look at in the next session of EDITORIAL CONFERENCE.
Don’t go far.
REMEMBER: To get every session in your mailbox, sign up by sending an email with the subject JOIN and message JOIN EDITORIAL CONFERENCE to firstname.lastname@example.org