Even if you pride yourself on being a linguistic pedant, you’ve almost certainly made a mistake or two while speaking, writing, or both. The English language is bursting with homophones, homonyms, tricky pronunciations, and phrases that are misused so often that you can hardly remember what they originally meant.
On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is setting the record straight on some classic semantic slip-ups and even discovering how certain typos made an impact on language for centuries to come. Imogen, for instance, could have been a name that William Shakespeare completely made up—but there’s a good chance scribes actually just misprinted the already-existing name “Innogen.” And while you might think free rein and free reign both make sense, free reign is technically an “eggcorn,” or a mistaken word or phrase that fits the definition of the right version.
There are terms that have been around for so long that dictionaries now accept them as correct (irregardless, for example), and others that make it into the dictionary by accident, and actually aren’t words at all (like dord). In short, the English language is imperfect and ever-evolving, and exploring its eccentricities is just as fun as speaking it “correctly,” whatever that means.
Find out about other misprints and mispronunciations below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for more fascinating videos here.