11 more incorrectly used words that make you look bad

Updated to Business on December 19, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

I wrote a blog post recently all about incorrectly used words. I thought it would be a fun diversion—at best, titillation for the grammatically inclined.

Readers loved it.

Not only did they share it (a lot), they offered up more great suggestions.

And so, dear reader, I present to you 11 more incorrectly used words that make you look bad (you can thank me in the comments). And if this new list doesn’t levitate your lexicon, you can read the original post here.


Both compliment and complement sound the same (homonyms), but have very different meanings (like made and maid…but I digress). Compliment is all about giving praise (maybe I should rename my blog’s Comment section as the Compliment section?). Whereas Complement means completing or making something perfect. (hat tip to Jill Hilderman for this suggestion)


Question: did you infer that more sales is what’s needed, or did you imply it?

“If you are trying to suggest something by what you have said,” writes reader Virginia Nichols, “you are implying. If you have come to a conclusion based on what you have previously heard, then you are inferring.”


This one is controversial. According to reader, Neal of “None (short for no one) is singular (as in none is). Most people use it as a plural (as in none are) because they are incorrectly modifying a prepositional phrase that follows, not the noun. “

But, according to Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl), none can be singular (as in “None of the students was wrong” or plural (as in “According to the students, none of them were wrong.”).


Do you have less potatoes and fewer potato salad? Here’s a simple rule from Grammar Girl: “The traditional advice is that fewer is for things you count, and less is for things you don’t count.” So you ate less potato salad (but you double dipped at the dessert bar). (Thanks to Shirley Nain and Janice Porter for this suggestion)


I am guilty of misusing this one: Myriad is only about quantity, as in ‘the myriad stars in the summer night’, and not about variety as in ‘there was a myriad of choices.’ “Myriad comes from the Greek for 10,000 and we don’t say a 1,000 of…” (Clare Edwards)


Even though it’s illogical to center around, you get some grace on this one. According to Merriam-Webster “The logic on which the objections are based is irrelevant, since center around is an idiom and idioms have their own logic.

Power to the idioms!


Try this out loud: “It was 2:00 so John and me left for the meeting.” Now try this: “It was 2:00 so John and I left for the meeting.” I’m no grammar expert but “John and me” sounds like it came from Eliza Doolittle, pre-Henry Higgins make over. The trick, I learned (thank you big sister, Noni), is to delete the other person’s name and see if your sentence sounds right. “It was 2:00 so me left for the meeting.” is worse than awkward. (hat tip to Shirley Nain)


Here’s a tricky one – do you bring home, or take home the bacon? Whether you use bring or take depends on your point of reference. “You ask people to bring things to the place you are, and you take things to the place you are going.” (Grammar Girl).

That’s why getting food to go isn’t called bring-out food!


Are you continuously improving or continually getting better?

Even though both words harken from the same roots, the meaning of continuously and continually are different cousins. Continuously means never ending and hopefully you are continuously improving.

Continually means very often or at regular intervals. That’s why you should be continually reading this blog and continuously practicing what you learn.


Here’s another tricky homonym: to be discreet is to be careful, cautious and using good judgment.

Whereas discrete means separate or distinct. When authorities tested discrete neighbourhoods on the now-defunct Ashley Maddison site they tried to keep the results discreet.


Here’s a slippery one: do you evoke the powers of higher beings or invoke them? Actually, you could do both!

To evoke is to call to mind – a smell, long-lost memory, or names of actors who’ve played Batman since Adam West (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck).

To invoke is to call for help or maybe a higher power, like when the Mayor lights up the batman spotlight over Gotham City.

Want to go farther and insure a series is continuous? Precede to ad alot of suggestions in the comments (irregardless if you know right usage.) Than myself and me can create another post.