9 Words That Don’t Mean What You Think

Written by CRACKED Staff, Tim Cameron

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The English language is under assault by stupid people who use words they don’t understand, and is defended by pompous asses who like to correct those people. We’re not sure who to side with.

So, here are some words that you’ll see used incorrectly on a daily basis, and a helpful guide as to just how big of a dick you’d have to be to correct people on it. We have also included many pictures of these words being read by women with large boobs.


People think it means:

Actually means:
Not a damned thing.

This is not a word. Now, we have no problem with making up words (if a particular scent can only be described as “fartalicious,” we reserve the right to call it so). The problem with this one is “regardless” already means something isn’t worth regard (that’s why the “less” is there) so adding the “ir” to it means… it’s worth regarding again? Who knows.

Should you care?
If there’s ever a time to speak up, this is probably it. Mainly because this is one of those words used almost exclusively by people trying to sound smarter than they are. Remind them that when using fake words to at least try to use ones that have some kind of meaning, if they want to avoid unnecessary cockulance when speaking.

Dick Rating:
As in, “How big of a dick are you if you insist people use it the right way?”


People think it means:
To skim over or browse something.

Actually means:
Almost the opposite of that.

Peruse means “to read with thoroughness or care.” If you peruse a book, you leave no page unturned. This makes sense when you consider the Middle English per use, meaning “to wear out or use up.” Unfortunately, if you “consider the Middle English” very often when speaking, you’re probably not exactly the life of the party.

Should you care?
You could make the argument that the way people use it is so far off from the original meaning that it’s worth fighting for, but there is almost no way to do it tactfully:

“What are you doing, Chris?”
“Oh, just perusing the report here before the meeting.”

So, perhaps the best thing is to just lead by example and start using the word correctly yourself. But, this can create its own problems:

“Hey Sharon, What’s Chris doing?”
“Oh, he said he was perusing that new report.”
“Then why is he hunched over it with his tongue out, re-reading the opening page for the ninth time?”
“Gosh, I don’t know. I guess he must be clinically retarded.”

Dick Rating:


People think it means:
Any kind of amusing coincidence.

Actually means:
An outcome that is the opposite of what you’d expect.

So, if a porn star moved to Virgin, Utah, that would be ironic. If the same porn star bought a house in Boner Knob, Montana that would not be ironic.

Should you care?
We realize this is a technical point. But, it’s almost worth taking a stand because the word has been abused to the point that it can mean anything.

“She always said she wanted to marry a dentist! And then she married Bob, who is a dentist! Isn’t that ironic?”

“I went on my cigarette break, but there was a No Smoking sign! Isn’t that ironic?”

“I just pooped in your aquarium! Isn’t that ironic?”

We have to draw the line somewhere, don’t we?

Dick Rating:


People think it means:
“Spotless” or “as good as new.”

Actually means:
“Ancient, primeval; in a state virtually unchanged from the original.”

It’s therefore perfectly possible to have a pristine mountain of fossilized brontosaurus shit, but if you were to buff that mountain to a lustrous shine, it would no longer be pristine.

Should you care?
The meanings are close enough that correcting somebody sounds like grammar Nazi hair-splitting. That’s a shame, because there were lots of words that mean “clean” but none that have the exact same meaning as “pristine.”

If you use pristine correctly yourself, you probably won’t land yourself in too much trouble, unless someone buys your “pristine” house on eBay without realizing that it’s an authentic 14th century dung hovel complete with never-been-used plague rats.

Dick Rating:


People think it means:
Unperturbed, not worried.

Actually means:
Utterly perplexed or confused. It comes from the Latin non plus (a state in which nothing more can be done).

The misunderstanding would seem to stem from people making semi-educated guesses as to the word’s meaning, which kind of sounds like it means “unruffled” or something like that.

Should you care?
If your roommate says:

“The doctor called about your herpes test. He sounded nonplussed.”

Then, yeah, it’s pretty important that you know what he meant. Either the doc wasn’t worried, or the doc was perplexed by the sight of some strand of alien herpes he had never witnessed prior, depending on whether or not your roommate knows how to use the word.

Though, if any of your friends actually start using words like “nonplussed” in conversation, regardless of the meaning, they may deserve a good cock punching anyway.

Dick Rating:


People think it means:
Mildly amused.

Actually means:
Bewildered or confused.

If you were to say “I was bemused by your dead baby joke,” you wouldn’t be saying the joke was funny. You’d be saying that you completely failed to understand it. You were following the story up to and including the bit about the trowel, but you’d lost the thread way before the Ku Klux masturbation climax.

Should you care?
It’s hard to blame people for getting this one wrong, the word just sounds like it means, “sort of amused.” We blame the people who originally invented the word. You should probably let the new meaning take over unless, you know, you’re a dick.

Dick Rating:


People think it means:

Actually means:
Outrageous or heinous on a grand scale.

War crimes are enormities. Extra-big bouncy castles are not.

Should you care?
This is one of those words you really don’t need to be using anyway, unless you’re giving a speech at the U.N. Just remember that if you say to your girl, “I hope you’re prepared for the enormity of my dick,” you’re implying that your penis is responsible for several acts of evil on the scale of ethnic genocide. This may or may not turn her on, depending on the girl.

Dick Rating:


People think it means:
A lot of something.

Actually means:
Too much of something, an over-abundance.

It’s the difference between:

“Dude, I am jonesing to go snort a plethora of medicinal-grade barbiturates right now.”

And …

“Dude, I just snorted a plethora of medicinal-grade barbiturates, and now there are hundreds of terrifying arachnids crawling out of my penis. They all have human lips.”

Should you care?
As with “enormity,” you’re courting a certain amount of dickery by using “plethora” at all; most of the time, you can get the same point across by saying “a big ol’ shitload.” However, the original meaning of over-abundance is worth hanging onto, because it seems as if there’s no direct replacement other than “too many big ol’shitloads,” which doesn’t have quite the same degree of pith.

Interestingly, “plethora” once meant “an over-abundance of bodily fluids” so if you heard your doctor say this back in the 1700s, it meant they were about to stick a bunch of leeches on you.

Dick Rating:


People think it means:
Nobody is sure.

Actually means:
Nobody is sure.

Specifically, we’re talking about when the word is used with some other adjective. Like if somebody says, “The turd pool is deceptively shallow,” does that mean it’s deeper than it appears, or not as deep?

If you’re not sure, don’t feel bad. The American Heritage Dictionary asked their word experts and they said they had no fucking idea, either. So … nobody knows.

Should you care?
So, if you say (to a lady, perhaps), “I possess a deceptively large set of balls,” you could mean that your modest bulge belies the real heft of your testicles, which are actually so pendulous that you’re forced to strap them to your legs. However, you could also mean that you have tiny love eggs, and that your ball-shaped jean protrusions are actually caused by the hideous malformation of your wang. This is obviously something you want to avoid.

If ever there was a case to be made for clarity of language, this is it. If you use it at all, make sure the context makes the meaning totally clear. “My balls are deceptively large,” you could say, “because I have just inflated my genitalia with a bicycle pump.”

What this also means is that technically the usage is never wrong … or right. If you’re the type who just likes to correct people to be a dick, well, this one is a gold mine.

Dick Rating:

63 thoughts on “9 Words That Don’t Mean What You Think

  1. JSA

    Thank you very much for your post. It is very clarifying for people that, like myself, use english as a second language.

    I could add some more: “Actually” is used for native-spanish speakers as “nowadays” instead of “in fact”.

    However, the worst part is related with latin words. Some of the words you commented can be rightly guessed knowing something of latin.

    An example of a bad use of latin is “versus” or “.vs.”. That is translated as “opposite to” when, actually, the real meaning in lating is “to” meaning movement, like in “going to”.

    Thank you again.

  2. Carol Kennedy

    “Deceptively…Specifically, we?re talking about when the word is used with some other adjective.”

    Do you expect us to take seriously someone who thinks “deceptively” is an adjective?

  3. kristina b

    I’m just curious… why is there t & a all through this post? I mean, it’s a post about misusing words. What does that have to do with half naked women? I’m not offended by women’s bodies, but it does kind of offend me to see them just inserted into a completely unrelated situation like they’re wallpaper or something. Those are people.

  4. amishmime

    Damn. I always thought “irony” meant it kinda looked like an iron–or something made with a lot of iron.
    Interesting post. I always thought peruse just meant to look it over. Perhaps I should’ve read the definition a little more thoroughly.

  5. Leo

    @ kristina b – it’s a sad state of affairs when people insert t&a into something to “make it interesting”. I mean sure – sex sells, but most people forget that sex isn’t the ONLY thing that sells. But I’m a guy, so I’m not complaining…

    @ amishmime – As strange as I find that comment, I can see where the problem comes from. I knew what it meant, but could never really define it properly (I found the definition supplied above to be most excellent).

    And ‘pristine’ was one I didn’t know – I too thought it meant ‘clean’ and not ‘unchanged’. It’s subtle, but it’s an important difference.

    Thanks Tim.

  6. Ms J. E Blue

    Just goes to show, that even those of us who know that we know it all, . . .might just have to go back to the dic-k-tionary to learn something. Bravo to whomever paid enough attention to the fact that most of us got them wrong. Please keep on paying attention for those of us who don’t.

  7. Donna

    Another word that has lost it’s true meaning… Podium: people think it means that thing you stand behind to talk from a stage. That is a lectern. A podium is what you stand upon while at the lectern delivering your speech!

  8. Mongre

    You forgot:


    People think it means:

    It really means:
    Your third grade English teacher just rolled over in her grave.

    I hear this on TV and now from people i know and there are few words that make me cringe more than “disorientated”

  9. Robin

    One entry found.


    Main Entry: ir?re?gard?less
    Pronunciation: \?ir-i-?g?rd-l?s\
    Function: adverb
    Etymology: probably blend of irrespective and regardless
    Date: circa 1912
    nonstandard : regardless
    usage Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927.

    The most frequently repeated remark about it is that ?there is no such word.? There is such a word, however.

    It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.

  10. Ugly Horse Baby

    Here’s another one: Masticate. You can probably guess what people think it means… but it really means to grind with the teeth or chew.

  11. Conundrum

    This is a wonderful post. There are a few in here that i really didn’t know about. Pristine was definitely one of them.

    The boob shots were a nice touch as well… Nice job!

  12. Paul

    Actually, there are multiple definitions for many words, and your article doesn’t really give play to the idea. Case in point: peruse. It can mean to look over something with great care, OR to look at it casually.

    I refer you to webster’s online dictionary, where I quickly found confirmation:


    Interesting article idea, but the sky really is not falling.

  13. Krisha

    How about “chauvinism” which actually means aggressive patriotism or blind enthusiasm for military glory.

    As opposed to misogynistic.

  14. tranztopoleez

    Oh man this is pretty good, I fucking hate more than anything people who use Ironic in place of Coincidental, it’s so dumb…..

  15. Sean

    My favorite here is nonplussed. I’ve heard a lot of supposedly intelligent people mess that one up. I had to re-check the dictionary one time because I thought that I must be the one that was wrong. Nope. They didn’t add a new meaning for nonplussed.

  16. Marcus

    #10. Fortuitous

    People think it means: Fortunate.

    Actually means: Happening by chance.

    Popular usage of the word has ingrained its meaning as a fortunate chance happening, though technically, a fortuitous event could turn turn out to be either good or bad.

    Since virtually no one uses the word in its etymologically correct form, and it’s “informal” meaning is listed in most dictionaries, you have to be a real dick to point it out.

    Dick Rating: Pat Robertson

  17. Aaron

    “People think it means:
    Any kind of amusing coincidence.

    Actually means:
    An outcome that is the opposite of what you’d expect.

    So, if a porn star moved to Virgin, Utah, that would be ironic. If the same porn star bought a house in Boner Knob, Montana that would not be ironic.”

    OK, so you just contradicted yourself…a porn star moving to Virgin, Utah would merely be an amusing coincidence…why would you expect her to NOT move to that town? A porn star moving to a town that had no porn industry in it and thus he/she could not do any more porn would be ironic–that is because it would be the OPPOSITE of where you would expect he or she to move to.

    Also, your example for what would not be ironic is the exact same example you gave for what WOULD be ironic except that you changed the name of the town to another sexual innuendo.

  18. soubriquet

    “People think it means”… Who are these people?
    Not the majority, I hope.

    Here are a couple more. American usage of the word “momentarily”. I grit my teeth when I hear it meant as “very soon” (“I’ll be with you momentarily”). It means “for a moment”.
    Aggravated… Does NOT mean irritated. It means “to make worse”

  19. Martin

    Deceptively: Opposite of adjective. So, deceptively shallow means it is deeper than it appears and deceptively large means smaller than they appear.

  20. Johl

    Another one. Ignorant. Everyone think it means mean, and biased. As in ” why you so ignant! I just was asking for more fries.” NO! Ignorant means you are unaware or do not know something. I cannot stand when people tell me because i dont like something i am ignant (as they say). I dont like some thing because i dont know about it? People have to stop using the word that way and look in a dictionary. Anyone who uses the word that way is trashyer(not a word) than you know.

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  22. J.B. Hooker

    I would be remiss to not suggest adding “Literally” to the list. A heart-breaking situation to be sure, the most common mis-use of this word conveys the OPPOSITE of it’s meaning. For example: “Dude, I was laughing so hard last night, I literally shit my pants”. Clearly, our speaker was attempting to put emphasis on the hilarity of the situation by inserting “literally,” when in all likelihood, he meant “figuratively”. Also common is the jilted lover who claims his or her heart to have recently been “literally ripped out” of his or her chest; and so on. Finally, there is the use of literally where it simply doesn’t belong, either because the described situation is impossible, “You gotta meet this guy, man…he’s literally had sex with 10 million women” (don’t worry – I did the math, it works out to 500 women a day for 60 years, or 20 women per hour)

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