More Phrases That Clang in My Ear

More Phrases That Clang in My Ear

In previous posts, I’ve described expressions that have crept into our language and spread like weeds—odd and often unnecessary words and phrases such as sooner rather than later, in real time, and on the ground. Here are two more that I’ve noticed.


I love colorful adjectives as much as anyone. I smile at Tennessee Ernie Ford’s pea-pickin’ heart. I frown at two-faced politicians. But rarely do I mix them up. Pea-faced? Two-pickin’? Huh?

With earth-shattering, it looks to me as if people have confused two perfectly good, colorful adjectives to create one that’s incorrect and kind of silly. Can the earth really shatter? Well, no. Can it shake? Yes, and as a California transplant I can confirm that.

The two adjectives are earthshaking and ear-shattering. Somewhere along the line the two seem to have been conflated, and the word became earth-shattering.

Suggestion: Shake the earth. Shatter the ears. (Or split them if you must.) But, unless you’re making a science fiction movie, don’t shatter the earth.

Stepping foot

Conflation strikes again. (Don’t you love that word?) In 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder. He set foot on the moon. He didn’t step foot on the moon.

People, people. You can do better than this.

Suggestion: Shape up!


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