Common use: A quip to justify actions that stem from a sense of nationalism.
Real use: From American statesman Carl Schurz in 1872, the complete phrase is, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Wrong is wrong, at all costs.
Real use: Lifted from American poet Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, the original intent of the literary piece is not talking about the other choice. It’s a commentary on how people fixate on the choices and what-ifs when they can’t do anything about going back in time to explore other possibilities. Claiming to have taken the road less traveled is a nonsense oxymoron because there will always be a choice you can’t make and you would never know the outcome.
Common use: To chide people that family is more important than other relationships.
Real use: Ironically, the whole phrase meant the opposite: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” It actually means that bloodshed in battles or agreements is stronger than relationships borne from biology.
Real use: The phrase comes from English playwright Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. In the play, Faustus asked the devil Mephistopheles to conjure the image of Helen of Troy, the woman the phrase is pertaining to. The complete line of the play goes like this:
“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium—
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss—
[kisses her] Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!—”
The intent of the line does not merely compliment the beauty of Helen, but more, its deadly consequences. In short, it’s not totally a compliment!
What other phrases have we been using wrong? Enlighten us in the comments below!