Proper English language usage

As time goes by, a language has additions to its trove of phrases and idioms in common use. Some of these are good additions, some are bad. This site warns about a few bad uses, and gives a little insight into why the good ones are so good.

Go to the main page and Contents

The verbs "set" or "step" and the noun "foot":

Distance - "Don't you dare step one foot over my threshold!"

Here, the 'one foot' is a measure of distance; twelve inches. It has nothing to do with the appendage at the bottom of your leg.

Action - "Don't you dare set one foot on my clean floor!"

Here, the 'foot' implies one (or both) of the appendages at the end of your leg which are clad in muddy work boots. It doesn't matter how far in the muddy boot prints would go, just don't get your muddy boots on this floor at all.

Other examples:
"Step into my parlor, said the Spider to the Fly..."
    Definitely a direction and/or distance.

"As soon as he set foot on the first flagstone, the trap was set."
    Again his foot was placed on something, the poison-tipped darts flew.

-- Absolutely dead wrong: --

"Don't you dare step foot on my property!"

Here, the 'step' is a verb with an unequivocally inappropriate and stupidly misapplied object ('foot'). This cringeworthy abuse of the language pops up with monotonous regularity on television and radio. It makes one wish there were a button on one's TV remote which would apply a good slap to the back of the on-air personality's head.


"Don't you dare step onto my property!

-- OR --

"Don't you dare set foot on my property!"

Here, the 'step' is a verb which already implies using either or both feet. The distance is not twelve inches, not even an inch, not even a nanometer! And the 'set' is a verb which could set your mind at ease, set the record straight, set the table for dinner or just set your book down. Please, please use either of these phrases instead. Thank you.

Back to Contents

Raw hit counter: ( 1973 )