Common misuses of words are often comical, and the result of someone attempting to impress their listeners by using what they perceive to be the “educated” usage. I found several of the following examples on “Antiques Roadshow” and attribute them partly to the likelihood that the speakers were nervous about finding themselves being filmed for television and attempted to use what they thought was proper language.

A good many of those who bring their treasures to be appraised say that they are shocked, stupefied or stunned to learn that their offering is worth a lot more than they expected. While those words are technically among synonyms for surprising reactions to the unexpected, they are grouped with other words whose meanings are far from what we would assume are words of pleasure, amazement or delight. One woman even claimed that she was “appalled” to find she had inherited a valuable piece of art.

Misuse of that word reminded me of a somewhat bizarre experience many years ago. My husband had taken several of my paintings to hang in his office and one of his clients, a woman that I knew casually, saw them when she took him some paperwork needed to prepare her tax return. I happened to encounter her some time later and she gushed, “I had no idea you were an artist. When Paul told me that you did those paintings, I was appalled.” Needless to say, I was left speechless for some moments before I realized she was complimenting me for my talent (I hope).

Almost everybody uses the word “hopefully” incorrectly. They say things like, “Hopefully, we will get to the theater on time.” or “Hopefully, I will die at a ripe old age.” What they mean seems to be that they hope they won’t be late for the movie, or that they hope they won’t die young. But, what their words actually mean is that they will arrive at the theater or their later years in a hopeful frame of mind (perhaps hoping that all the best seats haven’t yet been taken or that they will soon find themselves in Heaven). A lot of confusion would be eliminated if they would just say “I hope.”

Another word that is commonly misused is “whom.” Most people are uncertain when to use it or when it is okay to say the more comfortable “who.” Even when used correctly, “whom” sounds self-conscious or pompous and is one word I’d like to see stricken from the language — along with “hopefully.”

Most people (including several writers who ought to know better) use “farther” and “further” interchangeably as if they were synonyms. They do not have the same meaning. “Farther” should be reserved strictly for measurable distance; for everything else, use “further,” which means “in addition” or “additional.” Theoretically, “further” can sometimes be used in conjunction with distance when added to an already-mentioned distance. “Yesterday we got only ten miles farther than we expected to, but today we plan to add several further miles.”

Sir Winston Churchill, in an effort to point out the ridiculousness of the rule that prohibits ending a sentence with a preposition, stated that “...is a thing up with which I will not put.” It is a rule to be ignored as it originated for use with another language and should not apply to English.

Another frequent misuse prominent on “Antiques Roadshow” is the mixing of pronouns. Too many times I have heard someone say, “This has been in my wife’s family for generations and has been passed down to her and I.” If the speaker had not had a wife, he would have known better than to say that the object was “passed down to I.” He obviously should have said “...to her and me.”

It seems to be a universal mistake to confuse numbers and amounts in both speech and writing. Much too often I hear (even from newscasters who should be ashamed of themselves) such things as, “There were less cases of flu last month than the same period last year.” Please remember that “less” is for amounts; “fewer” is for numbers.

A former volunteer and substitute teacher in the Solon schools, Milli is an artist and poet who lives near Morse where she also creates unique greeting cards and handmade books.

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