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10 Misconceptions About Common Sayings

Written By: Youki on March 27, 2009 2 Comments

JFrater at listverse.com writes “10 Misconceptions About Common Sayings” — A few I found interesting:


Another Thing Coming

Common Saying: If you think that, you have another thing coming

This is a complete aberration of the original phrase because of the sound of English. The correct phrase is “if you think that, you have another think coming” – in other words, “what you think is wrong so think again”. Because the “k” in “think” often ends up silent when saying “think coming” people have changed the phrase over time. Of course, “another thing coming” makes no sense at all. To illustrate how global this error is, when you google “another thing coming” it returns 139,000 results; when you google “another think coming” it returns a mere 39,000 results.


Rule of Thumb

Common Saying: Rule of thumb

People commonly think that this saying is a reference to a law allowing a man to beat his wife as long as he uses a rod no thicker than his thumb. It is, of course, completely untrue. There is no record of any judge in Britain ever making a ruling like this – or any lawmaker passing a law. The phrase actually refers to doing something by estimates – rather than using an exact measure.


Free Reign

Common Saying: To give someone free reign

This is a spelling error that leads to a misunderstanding – though the meanings remain the same fundamentally. Many people presume this phrase to mean that a person given free reign, has the “royal” power to do anything they want. In fact, the correct phrase is “free rein” and it comes from the days before cars when horses were used as our main mode of transport. When navigating a steep or winding path, one would relax the reins so that the horse could pick the safest path as he was more likely to do a better job than the rider.


Beg the Question

Common Saying: To beg the question

Let’s face it – 99% of people reading this list will not know the correct meaning of “beg the question”, but that implies that the mistaken meaning should really be considered correct through common usage – so let us not fight about right or wrong – I will just state the facts: “to beg the question” does not mean “to raise the question”. Originally the phrase was “to begge the question” and it appeared in English around the 1580s. It is a reference to a question (or phrase) which implies the truth of the thing it is trying to prove. Confusing? Okay – here is an example: “why does England have fewer trees per acre than any other country in Europe?” This is a “begged question” – the person asking is implying that England has fewer trees – when in fact, it may not. Another example is “he must be telling the truth because he never lies”. Decartes was begging the question when he said “I think, therefore I am”. Oh – and for those of you who are used to using the term in the wrong way, consider using “prompt the question” as a correct alternative.

 [see the full list here]

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2 Responses to “10 Misconceptions About Common Sayings”

  1. Usree Bhattacharya on: 27 March 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Loves it, Youki! Heh.

    I think “The exception proves the rule” totally belongs in there, should come in as number 1!!!!!

    Oh, and…

  2. Youki on: 31 December 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Obama quoted on the fiscal cliff deal:

    And he [Obama] warned that if Republicans think they can get future deficit reduction solely through spending cuts “that will hurt seniors, or hurt students, or hurt middle-class families without asking also equivalent sacrifice from millionaires or companies with a lot of lobbyists … they’ve got another think coming.”


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