Twisted Expressions Exercise (281)

It is natural for speakers to interpret the words in familiar terms. Each of the errors below is the result of a logical train of thought. Some may eventually replace the originals, but until that time, the twisted versions are comical to speakers who know better. Edit the sentences to correct the idioms.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: I was so disappointed I wanted to ball my eyes out.
Correct : I was so disappointed I wanted to bawl my eyes out.

A person crying folds his hands into fists that resemble balls. Such a gesture is called "balling one’s fists." However, the intended verb is bawl: "to cry loudly and roughly."

2.
Original: No matter what you say, he’s a coal-hearted brute and I never want to see him again.
Correct : No matter what you say, he’s a cold-hearted brute and I never want to see him again.

English has the expression "to have a heart as black as coal," so it’s possible to see why a speaker might change cold-hearted to coal-hearted.

3.
Original: Shirley felt left out because the school click she wanted to belong to continued to snub her.
Correct : Shirley felt left out because the school clique she wanted to belong to continued to snub her.

The word clique is a French borrowing that came into English with the pronunciation [KLEEK], but is now pronounced [KLIK] by many speakers. As [KLIK] is the pronunciation of the English word click, the mix-up is understandable.

4.
Original: Everything would be perfect if it wasn’t for his sister; she’s the flaw in the ointment.
Correct : Everything would be perfect if it wasn’t for his sister; she’s the fly in the ointment.

Anything that mars the perfection of something is a flaw. However, the expression refers to medicine being spoiled by having a nasty fly fall into it. A speaker might say that the sister is "a flaw in their relationship," but to say she’s "a flaw in the ointment" is nonsense.

5.
Original: You’ve got to give me the recipe for that wonderful Holland Day sauce!
Correct : You’ve got to give me the recipe for that wonderful hollandaise sauce!

This error isn’t too far from the meaning. Hollandaise is the feminine of the French word for Dutch. English speakers often refer to the Netherlands as Holland. Calling the sauce "Holland sauce" wouldn’t be too far off. Another error heard for "hollandaise sauce" is "holiday sauce."

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