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Dumb woman
Speak up

Open mouth, insert foot

The way you speak with friends may be inappropriate in a professional situation. Are you sabotaging your career with any of these words that make you sound less than intelligent?

71. Photographic memory

Definition: a slang term for eidetic memory, or the ability to recall details like images, sounds and objects with extreme precision

To refer to one with an eidetic memory, it's generally best to avoid the term "photographic," which is a misnomer for what they experience and scientifically inaccurate. Claiming to have a photographic memory when no eidetic tendency has been diagnosed is also an eye-roller (and can easily be disproven). Just say you have a good memory.

72. Preggers/knocked up

Definition: slang terms for pregnant

Cute to use while you're with friends. If you're in a professional or less friendly situation, just don't.

73. Pretense

Definition: done for show; to show off

There's nothing wrong with this word when it's used correctly, but many people incorrectly substitute it for pretext, which is a fabricated reason or excuse for something.

74. Probly/prolly vs. probably

The word probably (meaning most likely) has three syllables: PROB-AB-LY.

75. Pronounciation vs. pronunciation

We agree that it weird that the noun form of the verb pronounce has a different second syllable, but it does nonetheless. The word is PRO-NUN-CEE-EY-SHUN.

76. Random

Definition: without reason or pattern

It's OK to note that something is random if it truly is. However, something being unexpected or unpredicted doesn't make it random. The guys you saw at the restaurant weren't random, they were simply people you didn't know. The event that startled you wasn't random unless it wasn't explainable by science. It was just unexpected.

77. Retard

Definition: a pejorative term for those with compromised mental faculties

This is a legitimate term meaning to slow down or delay. But it should never be used as a noun to refer to a person.

78. Refute vs. rebut

If you refute something, you prove it to be false with evidence. If you intend to present your own argument, you intend to rebut something.

79. Silicone vs. silicon

They aren't interchangeable. SIL-I-CAHN is a naturally occurring element. SIL-I-CONE is a synthetic derivative. So one should say "SIL-I-CAHN Valley," as it's the silicon that functions as the ideal semiconductor used in computer technology.

80. Sit vs. set vs. sat

Don't say to a person, "please set down" when asking them to take a seat. Also, do not say that an object "set" somewhere. It's "please sit down," "I set the pen on your desk," and "the cat sat on the armchair."

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Comments on "100 Words that instantly make you sound dumber"

namo March 10, 2014 | 8:47 PM

"Could care less" is an idiom for goodness sake and is generally understood as such in much the same way that we all know that "fat chances" are the same as "slim ones" !!! This particular "correction" is popular but nonsensical for the reason stated and is,frankly, rather pretentious.

K January 20, 2014 | 4:02 PM

Heather Barnett, you really should have thought about your own knowledge of the English language before taking it upon yourself to write an article on correct word usage. It seems as though most of the comments here are corrections. Speaking of which, I have one more to add to that list. Saying "photographic memory" is okay when used correctly. You wouldn't automatically be wrong in saying that. It's true that it is often used interchangeably with the term "eidetic memory", but rest assured that these are, in fact, two different things.

Topher January 17, 2014 | 11:22 PM

#27 There is no such word as expresso. Coffee made in a French press is simply coffee.

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No name August 27, 2013 | 5:17 PM

Disregard my post about "contentious" -- I misread the entry. Sorry!

Sarah August 27, 2013 | 3:46 PM

In number 16, I think the writer means "apathetic" rather than "ambivalent."

No name August 27, 2013 | 2:57 PM

Many of these are good, but you're wrong about "contentious." One definition is "likely to cause an argument." In that sense, "controversial" is a synonym.

Warren August 14, 2013 | 2:08 AM

The writer of this piece misused the word "hopefully" in one of her examples. In my eyes, she seemed "less than intelligent" because of this.

May August 11, 2013 | 2:54 PM

Hmm, #51's example use of "ironically" is just a situation of bad luck; the two events are completely unrelated. How about "Ironically, Telisia had declared bankruptcy the day before learning of her $5 million lottery win" instead?

Linda July 25, 2013 | 6:19 PM

I always thought "orientated" was incorrect, until I looked it up. It is, indeed, correct.

teresa July 23, 2013 | 5:54 PM

How about "supposably" and "functionable"?

Lisa Mack July 23, 2013 | 12:16 PM

You're missing my favorite! Reinterate!!

Julie July 22, 2013 | 5:09 PM

And "verbiage" doesn't make it on either list, I'm gobsmacked...

Unita July 22, 2013 | 12:31 AM

Hi. This is very good. Please check #77 and #78, though....looks like we have the same explanation for both :)

Matt July 21, 2013 | 12:39 PM

Oh geez, look at #55: "OK in it's other uses..." Misuse of its and it's should be #1 on this list (yeah, it's alphabetical, but you know what I mean...)! I would call this ironic(al), but I'm sure somebody out there is ready to, um, school me on how that concept is itself misapplied.

Dixie July 17, 2013 | 8:31 PM

My husband and I argue over the use/meaning of the word attribute versus contribute. I say attribute means to give credit to but the dictionary shows both words to have such similar meanings that I don't know how to help him to understand that attribute is correct. Can you give me a good example of how each word should be used?

Rob Kaiser July 17, 2013 | 12:18 PM

Good list, but you left out "utilize."

Cristina Sierra July 17, 2013 | 10:16 AM

Heather, I want to point out a small error - Irregardless is not a word except in Boston where it IS a word but it is pronounced IrreGAHdless. No need for the "r". JK :-) Thanks for the list!

Candice July 17, 2013 | 8:24 AM

This is a great list! I just want to point out a quick mistake. Peruse means "to examine thoroughly," but people often use it as a synonym for skim.

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