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Get to the Point!

Five Usage Errors — With Celebrities

By Theda C. Snyder

Just because you see a word or phrase in public media doesn’t mean it is being used correctly. Here are five common incorrect usages.

1. Nicole Kidman’s Husband Is Real

Because a person is famous does not make that person an urban legend. Keith Urban has won a number of music awards. He is celebrated in his field. You might say he is legendary. You could say the same of John Legend. Despite their names, neither Urban nor Legend are urban legends. An urban legend, also called an urban myth, is a story about something that doesn’t exist. It is an urban legend because a large number of people (like the population of a city) believe the story despite its falsity. Someone who is famous, who is legendary, is not an urban legend, even in the city.

2. The Kardashians May Follow Trends, But Are Not New Age

If your clients tell you they are New Age, that doesn’t mean they follow the latest trend. It means they are part of a movement emphasizing spirituality, mysticism, holism and environmentalism. It’s like professing a religion, not going to Fashion Week.

3. Also Not a Synonym for “Modern”

The term “politically correct” refers to behavior supposedly mandated by people seen as liberal or progressive on the political scale. Wearing yoga pants with a blazer and high heels to court (yes, this has happened) may not be in good taste, but it is not politically incorrect. The latest fashion trend is not properly described as politically correct or incorrect.

4. Sorry, Alanis

The word “ironic” is not a synonym for “inconvenient” or “frustrating.” Just because you encounter a traffic jam when you’re already late or a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break doesn’t make those situations ironic. Neither are they ironic because Alanis Morissette included them in her song “Ironic” along with a bunch of other mishaps. Irony is a form of humor arising from an unexpected circumstance. We need some buildup here before we might consider those situations ironic.

5. They Got the Hot Part Right

Talking about someone’s hot button refers to an emotional or controversial issue. A hot topic is the news everyone is talking about. If mentioning the managing partner’s son-in-law makes that lawyer go a little nuts, you’ve touched on a hot button, not a hot topic.

Proper usage should be every lawyer’s hot button. Notwithstanding sloppy references in public media, the idea of professionals using language correctly is no urban legend. Using the correct word or phrase, without hint of bias or irony, will always be politically correct and even fashionable, though not New Age.

Illustration ©

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Categories: Communications Skills, Daily Dispatch, Get to the Point
Originally published March 6, 2018
Last updated November 7, 2018
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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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