One of my peeves is when people use words, and it's obvious from the context that they don't know the meaning of the word.
One of the words that people use *incorrectly* is decimate. From the context, it's obvious that they meant something closer to annihilate.
Historically, to decimate simply means:
-to select by lot and kill one tenth of. The clue was the 'deci' prefix
-to reduce by one tenth
But it is currently being used as if to indicate exactly the opposite; that is, instead of the ten percent, it's being used as if it indicates the ninety percent instead. To annihilate would be to destroy the major portion of. So, the next time you hear someone use the word decimate, when they're referring to the major portion of something, set them straight, and let them know they're sounding a little ignorant.
Nothin' like using a word 'bass-ackwards.'
When I was growing up, the rule was that you couldn't use a word unless you could spell it, and if asked, you had to know the definition. I still live by both of those rules for the most part. I fall down a tad on the spelling, but try to consult a dictionary any time I'm not sure. And I so dislike reading others writing, or listen to someone speak who obviously don't know the meaning of the very words they use. It makes them look bad.
Now, to be clear, there is one fairly widely held fallacy regarding dictionaries as well. Folks consult dictionaries during 'debates' to 'prove' what a word does or does not mean. That's actually more the tail wagging the dog. Dictionaries do not establish the definition. Dictionaries report the definition(s) of a word as found in common usage, at the time that the dictionary is assembled. The dictionary is the summation designed to reflect how a word is being used at a specific point in time. This opinion was shared by the managing editor of the Merriam-Webster dictionary during a television interview several years ago. She went on to say that if someone didn't like the way a particular word was defined, to stop using it that way, the definition would disappear, or the word would fall into disuse. I would contend that the very people that it bothers are the ones who are using it correctly, and they probably have little direct influence over those who intentionally use it incorrectly. Further, just because a word may be found in a dictionary, does not indicate its propriety of use. Simply reporting what the word means does not imply that the word is proper to use in any context. Those that believe that it does are sadly mistaken and undereducated on the matter.
Another symptom of lazy language is irregardless. Regardless means 'without regard.' "Irr" means not. So, irregardless is a double negative. Using double negative make you seem less than you are. Don't do it. When in doubt, paste your writing into a word processor that has the capability to assess grammar as well as spelling. You'll be glad that you did. For better or worse, people will always judge you by how you write and how you speak.. 'Speak' well of yourself, and don't let stupid little mistakes chip away from your image.