Wednesday

50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Statue of limitations


Hey, I’ve heard of the Statue of Liberty, but never of the Statue of Limitations. Pretty sure most tourists wouldn’t find that one worth visiting. It might prove to be a bust.

And still, this misused phrase shows up once in a while.

The correct wording is “statute of limitations,” and it’s actually a legal phrasing. It refers to a specified time period, after which a crime may not be prosecuted.

And we’ve never heard of a statue celebrating such a statute.

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50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Supposeably



Gotta say it. I am opposed to the word “supposeably.” Maybe that’s superfluous. It’s not really a word at all.

One might suppose it could be, based on the usage it receives. But, even if we were able to suppose, it would not be supposeably so.

Supposedly, words join the lexicon of common usage when they are bandied about enough. But that doesn’t reduce the cringe factor of such a term.

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Tuesday

50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Sorta



“Sorta” makes me a little sore, especially as an editor. It really sort of does. It’s almost sordid.

Let’s sort out the difference between “sorta” and “sort of.” It’s a little like “kinda” and “kind of.”

Is the difference obvious? Does it sort of stare you right in the face?

Pretty much.

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Monday

50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Slight of hand



Don’t take this as a slight, but there’s really no such thing as slight of hand. Sure, someone might have dainty little mitts. Maybe we could say such a person is slight of hand.

But when someone talks about slight of hand as a means of performing a nifty trick, it’s just plain wrong. The actual expression is "sleight of hand."

The word “sleight” refers to a certain adeptness and dexterity, particularly when this is used to fool onlookers. A magician might demonstrate sleight of hand.

Another word for this is “prestidigitation,” a quick-handedness which shares the same Latin root word (praesto, meaning handy or ready) as the word “presto.”

Voila. There you have it, with a little sleight of hand.

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Saturday

50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Sister in laws




The subject of in-laws can be a sticky one. Just figuring out when to use the hyphen and when to lose it can drive a person wacky. Your sister in law might point out the proper hyphenation issues for in-law topics.

But, if you want to relate a story about multiple sisters in law, that’s how it goes. It’s not "sister in laws." The law part is singular, even when the sisters are multiples.

Don’t believe me? Go ask your brothers in law. Or, if you happen to have been married more than once, ask your fathers in law or your mothers in law.
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