Misquoted Sayings: Fighting Fire with Fire

Do you care about the use and misuse of language? Quite frankly, I am astonished how often people get famous proverbs and sayings wrong. I remember once, when my wife was attending slimming classes that she reported the instructor had said, “anyone who reaches their goal weight would be illegible (sic) for a one week free subscription.”

She could not understand why my wife and her friend seemed so amused as they attempted, in vain, to stifle their laughter. Or perhaps, in the spirit of this post, I should have said they attempted ‘in veign’.

Here are eight commonly misquoted sayings that I find particularly irksome:

  1. You are a mind of information
  2. That person did it off his own back
  3. In one foul swoop
  4. Batting down the hatches
  5. She was a bit of a damp squid
  6. That is a mute point
  7. I am not adverse to the matter
  8. I was left on tenderhooks

Anyway, I thought that perhaps today, we could start our own campaign to clean up the language. It set me thinking about what is the best thing to do the next time you hear someone using any of these sayings. Perhaps we could start fighting fire with fire. For example:

When someone says: “You are a mind of information.”
We could respond: “And you are garden of aphorisms.”

When someone says: “That person did it off his own back.”
We could add: “… and furthermore, without the aid of a rucksack.”

When someone says: “In one foul swoop.”
We could add: “… emitting the most dreadful smell.”

When someone says: “Batting down the hatches.”
We could add: “… and straight through the covers.”

When someone says: “She was a bit of a damp squid.”
We could respond: “But she could give you a heck of a cuddle.”

When someone says: “That is a mute point.”
We could add: “… as it adds nothing to the sound of silence.”

When someone says: “I am not adverse to the matter.”
We could respond: “But is the reverse true, or is that too obverse?”

When someone says: “I was left on tenderhooks.”
We could respond: “Ah yes, they say that love hurts.”

We can’t really blame people for misquoting these sayings after all, they travel around the population largely passed from person to person by word of mouth and that process is well-known to be unreliable.

Of course, if you can’t see what’s wrong with them, it’s probably you who is going around saying this stuff 😉

5 thoughts on “Misquoted Sayings: Fighting Fire with Fire

  1. TheUltimateKoopa

    Literally, the word “Myriad” means 10,000. For example a myriad meters is 10 kilometers.

  2. Delton

    Most of the sayings you have quoted I haven’t heard but the “Fight fire with fire” is something we do quite often here in the States. When a large forest fire has gotten out of control the fire fighters will go ahead of the fire and set another fire, they can control, to burn off the fuel so when the large fire gets there it won’t have anything to burn; therefore the large fire dies or goes out. Thus, Fighting Fire With Fire works.

  3. Christine Creedon

    The most irritating misquote that I have often heard used, by many including a former head of state in Ireland is the phrase , One wouldn’t want to upset the apple tart, would one? as opposed to UPSET THE APPLECART.

  4. Lauren

    Actually, like your wife, it’s pretty funny when people get sayings mixed up. What irritates me is when people use incorrect grammar and the prevalence of “text-speak”.There’s a well-known long-retired baseball player-Yogi Berra- in the US who is known for turning phrases on their ears.
    “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”
    “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
    “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
    “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
    “There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ’em.”
    The weird thing is, that all these have some sense to them. And a lot of humor….
    Love and Light,

  5. len stevens

    There’s a word, the wrong use of which drives me nuts … and that is “myriad”.

    To the best of my knowledge, it means “lots of” — but some folk say … “a myriad of” …

    So now we have … “lots of, of” …

    Sure, you can correct me if I’m wrong.

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