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Misused sayings raise a smile but could hint at hearing loss

Post on 7th December 2017

‘To be pacific, ‘an escape goat’ and ‘damp squid’ are the most misused phrases or sayings, according to new research.

Commonly known as ‘eggcorns’, the phrases often mean something different to the original yet make some kind of sense.

Someone may claim to be ‘lack toast and tolerant’ when they are lactose intolerant – rather than breadless and open-minded.

Passing mustard rather than muster might lead to some odd glances, while a doggie-dog world sounds like a much friendlier place than a dog-eat-dog world.

In a survey of 2,000 UK adults, which we commissioned, 35 per cent admitted to saying an eggcorn.

The survey was a fun way to highlight the need to look after our hearing as many phrases are down to people mishearing them in the first place. With a record 11 million people in the UK now suffering from some degree of hearing loss, if ignored it can not only lead to potentially embarrassing situations socially but also be incredibly isolating.

Nipping something in the butt rather than the bud might exasperate the problem and being a social leopard isn’t likely to go down well at parties.

Getting what’s coming to you often means you get your just desserts but some would argue you get your just deserves.

Sore subjects might be something of a moot point for many of us but for some they’re a mute point.

And if your favourite jumper becomes frayed you might make a last stitch effort to save it.

Other eggcorns in the top 30 include ‘boo to a ghost’ instead of ‘boo to a goose’, ‘biting my time’ instead of ‘biding my time’ and ‘on tender hooks’ instead of ‘on tenterhooks.’

Carried out by, the research also found we say an eggcorn on three occasions every month.

Unfortunately misusing a phrase has left a quarter of the population in an awkward position, while 13 per cent of us know someone who has been left embarrassed.

But it’s not just saying the wrong thing that can be a problem, 67 per cent said they mishear phrases.

On a related note, three in ten don’t think they have good hearing and 59 per cent struggle to hear what’s being said during conversation.

In fact 44 per cent of UK adults have avoided interaction with others completely because they simply can’t hear sufficiently.

Hearing is one of our most vital but neglected senses yet it is so easy to access NHS hearing care on the high street, with initial tests and NHS approved digital hearing aids free of charge and widely available to those experiencing hearing loss.

If you think you might be suffering from hearing loss, try this online hearing test or call into your nearest Scrivens branch for advice.


1. To be pacific (instead of to be specific)
2. An escape goat (instead of a scapegoat)
3. Damp squid (instead of damp squib)
4. Nipped it in the butt (instead of nipped in the bud)
5. On tender hooks (instead of on tenterhooks)
6. Cold slaw (instead of coleslaw)
7. A doggie-dog world (instead of dog-eat-dog world)
8. Circus-sized (instead of circumcised)
9. Lack toast and tolerant (instead of lactose intolerant)
10. Got off scotch free (instead of got off scot-free)
11. To all intensive purposes (instead of to all intents and purposes)
12. Boo to a ghost (instead of boo to a goose)
13. Card shark (instead of card sharp)
14. Butt naked (instead of buck naked)
15. Hunger pains (instead of hunger pangs)
16. Tongue and cheek (instead of tongue-in-cheek)
17. It’s a mute point (instead of moot point)
18. Pass mustard (instead of pass muster)
19. Just deserves (instead of just deserts)
20. Foe par (instead of faux pas)
21. Social leopard (instead of social leper)
22. Biting my time (instead of biding my time)
23. Curled up in the feeble position (instead of curled up in the foetal position)
24. Curve your enthusiasm (instead of curb your enthusiasm)
25. Heimlich remover (instead of Heimlich manoeuvre)
26. Ex-patriot (instead of expatriate)
27. Extract revenge (instead of exact revenge)
28. Self -depreciating (instead of self-deprecating)
29. As dust fell (instead of as dusk fell)
30. Last stitch effort (instead of last ditch effort)