Do You Know When to Use These Phrases?

Monday, January 233 min read

We’ve all made the mistake of using one word when we mean another — even professional writers get it wrong sometimes. Consider the phrasal adjective “deep-seated.” If someone has a deep-seated fear of snakes, that fear of snakes is firmly established. However, a “deep-seeded” fear of snakes… well, that’s just an error in word choice, because “deep-seeded” isn’t a word at all.

It’s an easy error to make because “seated” and “seeded” sound alike. Adding to the confusion is the fact that an older definition of “deep-seated” is “having its seat far beneath the surface,” which could be mistakenly linked to the physical act of planting seeds in a garden. The incorrect version could also be associated with the phrase “plant a seed,” meaning “to cause an idea or emotion to be in someone’s mind.”

If you have a deep-seated fear of using the wrong phrase, take a look at some commonly confused phrases, and review these tips for choosing the right one.

Pore Over vs. Pour Over

“Pore” and “pour” are homophones, meaning they sound alike but are spelled differently and have entirely different meanings. The phrase “pore over” means to study something carefully. For example: “I need to pore over my science book before the test.” The phrase “pour over” means a liquid is flowing over something, as in, “If you aren’t careful, water can pour over the edge of the pot” or “I enjoy pour-over coffee in the morning.”

This mnemonic device will help you remember when to use “pour”: “You spilled your poUR-over coffee, now U R wet.”

Run the Gamut vs. Run the Gauntlet

On their own, “gamut” and “gauntlet” are different enough to avoid confusion, but when used in a phrase, they can stump some writers. The word “gamut” has its roots in medieval music and evolved to mean “the full range of notes which a voice or instrument can produce, or which are used in a particular piece.” More generally, it now means “the full range or scope of something.” Therefore, the phrase “to run the gamut” means “to experience, display, or perform the complete range of something.”

A “gauntlet,” on the other hand, was a type of a medieval armored glove, and “throwing down the gauntlet” referred to issuing a challenge to an opponent. “To run the gauntlet” is derived from “gantlope,” which was borrowed from the Swedish word “gatlopp.” A “gantlope” was a form of military punishment in which two rows of men armed with sticks or knotted cords would strike a person running between them. In time, the phrase “run the gantlope” (or “gantelope”) became “run the gauntlet.”

It might be helpful to remember both definitions of “gauntlet” when trying to recall the difference between “run the gamut” and “run the gauntlet.” The original meanings of both “throw down the gauntlet” and “run the gauntlet” involve violence — though today both are mostly used in a figurative sense. It may also help to simply recall that the “m” in “gamut” means “music,” which is what the word originally referenced.

Peace of Mind vs. Piece of Mind

The confusion with these two phrases is that “peace” and “piece” sound alike — but only one of them is correct when written. To have “peace of mind” means to experience inner tranquility free from concern. To give someone “a piece of your mind” means to angrily express an opinion. “Peace of mind” is the correct spelling; “piece of mind” is a mashup of both phrases and should not be used in this sense.

To remember the correct phrase, remind yourself that a “piece” is a “part,” and you would never want to part with any piece of your mind.

Featured image credit: Ground Picture/ Shutterstock

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