I could go so many ways with this one.
There are the “commonly confused word” lists, words that sound a lot alike but are spelled different and have obviously different meanings, like “its and it’s” or “there, they’re, and their.”
There are the (apparently) less commonly recognized, yet still commonly confused or misspelled words like “nitpick” or “knitpick.”
And there are words that aren’t really words (or so grammar teachers keep telling us) like “irregardless.”
Or there are the words that have no connection between them, that one couldn’t imagine how anybody could confuse them for each other, yet the confusions still happen.
My nitpick here is thus: What is with this trend of using the word “cannibal” to describe a man-eating creature regardless of what that creature’s own species is?
Are professional writers using a dictionary that is magically available only to them? Because I can’t find any definition of the word that specifically means eating people. A person eating other people, yes, but every definition I’ve seen is that a “cannibal” is something that eats its own kind.
Case in point: a cannibalistic human like Hannibal Lecter would eat other humans, yes.
But a cannibalistic tiger would eat other tigers.
A cannibalistic giant, as Doyle called the Allegewi in The Secret Saturdays, should eat other giants (not necessarily humans as the Allegewi was actually known to do and which was Doyle’s reason for calling it a cannibal).
And a cannibalistic tree would eat other trees, or “seeds and cones” as one kid claimed a carnivorous tree would do in… well, I’m not sure where I’d heard that one.
I thought it was an episode of Sleepy Hollow, but I can’t seem to find that dialogue in any transcripts. Or maybe it was Grimm, but I’m having the same problem finding dialogue transcripts.
(I do recall quite clearly that the tree in question was found to be full of human skulls, so the double incorrect word choice besides the point, the kid was still wrong about that tree’s “diet.”)
That’s not to say that cannibalistic creatures would not also be man-eaters, just that that isn’t what the word means.
And there’s no way to tell whether this is the author using the wrong word for the purpose, or that the character is. There’s usually nothing else in these stories to suggest that the author–or the character–typically misuses different words, just that one instance with that one word.
And on the subject of words that are completely wrong for the context, how about one that’s less “nitpick” and more “blatantly annoys me?”
What about “deluxe” sandwiches at burger joints?
Now, I can understand using that word way back when, when burgers (or chicken sandwiches in my case) used to be fairly plain, and the lettuce and tomato on the “deluxe” version simply wasn’t provided on the regular cheaper kind.
But not any more. Rare is the sandwich without those toppings, and therefore rare is the need for a “deluxe” sandwich that adds only those toppings.
Deluxe means luxurious. And there is nothing luxurious about a sandwich with a poorer cut of meat, full of gristle, and fewer toppings than what the restaurant previously carried (like many of McDonald’s apparently disappearing Premium Chicken sandwich options like the Ranch BLT that I prefer), yet still costs just as much as that previous offering.
Or the “Ultimate” Chicken Grill at Wendy’s. Ultimate means “final” or “best”… so why does Wendy’s bother promoting their Asiago, or any other kind of chicken sandwich, if they themselves believe that their plain “chicken lettuce and tomato” with no other toppings is better than anything else they could ever make?