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 a few others

Step foot is terribly incorrect

Quid pro quo just what does it mean?

The links above will take you to those subjects.

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..."
    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.

"It was a misstep, which she regretted immediately."
    This one is probably allegorical, isn't it?

-- 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! Please, please use either of these phrases instead. Thank you.

Back to top

The phrase 'Quid Pro Quo':

The words 'quid pro quo' are actually Latin, not English. The word 'quid' means this. The word 'pro' means for. The word 'quo' means that.

So the entire phrase means nothing more than 'this for that'. Pretty simple. But as we use a language, several idioms, short-cuts, elisions and so on get into the popular usage. After eight hundred years of using 'this for that', the phrase was shortened to 'tit for tat'. It is actually a basic tool in the politician's arsenal. Almost all politics requires prodigious use of the mechanism we call 'tit for tat'.

Anyway, as English is a wonderfully rich language, we steal items from many other languages to provide nuance. For instance, the German word for 'pig' is schwein (we spell it 'swine'). To an English speaker, 'swine' means something completely different than 'pig'. The French word for 'pig' is porc (we spell it 'pork'). To an English speaker, the word implies that the pig meat is prepared for cooking and/or eating.

In that same vein, 'quid pro quo' implies that something nefarious went on during a 'tit for tat'. So a newsman with no scruples will use 'quid pro quo' to smear a politician when an ordinary old 'tit for tat' would apply. It is merely an adjustment for nuance. It is always up to the audience to determine whether bad things happened or an ordinary occurrence went down.

Back to top

Back to top

Raw hit counter: ( 3509 )