Common phrases that we use incorrectly

Flaunt the Law

Correct phrase: flout the law

To flaunt is to show off. If you have lovely hair or an hourglass figure, you will probably want to flaunt it.

To flout is to break. To flout the law is to break the law.

‘Give Free Reign’

Correct phrase: give free rein

A rein is a long, narrow strap attached at one end to a horse’s bit. It is used to control the movements of the horse.

To give free rein is to let the horse move without restriction. In a figurative sense, it means allowing someone complete freedom.

If you really want to come up with great ideas, you must give free rein to your imagination.

That said, many people use reign in this expression. Interestingly, this usage has started becoming acceptable.

‘Rye Smile’

Correct phrase: wry smile

A wry smile is an ironical smile. If somebody wears a wry smile or a wry expression they find a difficult situation slightly amusing or ironic.

‘Escape Goat’

Correct phrase: scape goat

Several centuries ago, there was a practice among the Jewish people. They would choose a goat and place the sins of all people in the village on its head. They would then kick the animal out of the town. They believed that the goat would take their sins along with it. Just like the proverbial goat that had to bear the sins of other people, a scape goat is a person who is blamed for the wrong doings of others. As for an escape goat, well, there is no such thing.

‘No Holes Barred’

Correct phrase: no holds barred

The expression ‘no holds barred’ means ‘with no restraints’.

I intend to fight it out with him, no holds barred.