About Writing

Foreign Words and Other Expressions That People Keep Tripping Over

File this under pet peeves.

Now, I encourage people who have read a word to use it, even if they mispronounce it. This post isn’t about that. It’s about words people hear somewhere and then use willy-nilly without checking spelling or collocation. It’s not any of you, of course, but you may have run into one or more of the following in the wild.

“Wallah” for “Voilá”

I think most people know that this word essentially means “ta-dah.” But what I keep hearing over and over again is “Wallah.” The word has a V, and it’s said.

And while I’m considering French terms, lately I have seen “Toot Sweet” or “Toot Suite” for the French phrase “Toute de Suite,” which means “immediately.”

“Hence Why”

There’s a local meteorologist who uses this phrase. He’ll be waving at the green screen saying, “There’s a cold front on the way. Hence why you need an umbrella tomorrow.” I don’t understand why he does that. “Hence” signals an explanation for something; the why is implied. The worst part is that it’s infected another meteorologist at the station. Now she does it, too; hence, I have switched to watching another local station.


Maybe this is fast coffee? Anyway, the word has an S, not an X. Espresso. And while I’m on my coffee soapbox, if you ever go to Italy, don’t order a cappuccino after morning. It signals you’re a tourist.


Mines are a thing. They blow people up or minerals come out of them.

What it is not is a possessive pronoun e.g. “That book is mines.” Though I think this word would be a great use of dialect–it’s a regional speech pattern around me–writers need to be aware that it is not standard usage.

Another nonstandard word I encounter often is “Theirselves.” I shouldn’t have to say it, but the word is “themselves.”

Et Cetera

The above is the full word for the abbreviation “etc.” For the record, it’s E-T-C, not E-C-T. For awhile, I thought “ect.” was a typo, but I’ve encountered it far too much for that to be the case.

And one more thing, the dollar sign goes BEFORE the amount: $10.99, $5, $1,849, not 10.99$. I think that happens because we say, “Five dollars.” And the same holds true for other currencies.

These aren’t all of the issues out there, but they’re the ones driving me crazy lately–not that it’s a long trip. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

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