Guest whinge: You can’t underestimate how much this annoys me

Now it’s time for a guest post. Because we do those around here, apparently. This one comes courtesy of my father, so you can kinda see where I get it from. Let the whinge begin…

I was going to have a whinge about how people get aphorisms wrong like “It’s a learning curve” NO! It is a STEEP learning curve. Or, even worse, “The proof is in the pudding” NO! NO! The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

But there is something else that is even worse that really irritates me and that is people who cannot use “overestimate” or “underestimate” correctly.

You hear it all the time; some idiot will want to stress the importance of something and they’ll say “You cannot underestimate the importance of this” when what they really wanted to say is that no estimate, however big, is large enough. In other words you cannot overestimate the importance of this.

Or they want to say that something doesn’t matter and so they say “you cannot underestimate how little this means to me” to them I say, “I bet I can!” I think it is the double negative that confuses them; the “cannot” followed by the “under” but there is another negative hidden in the word “little” that brings it back.

It just isn’t possible for anyone to overestimate how much this irritates me or, alternatively, it would be easy to underestimate how much this irritates me.

(Note, OED hyphenates under-estimate. Merriam-Webster shows it as one word, underestimate)


Editor’s note:
I have my own pet peeve that’s linguistic in nature. When people say they could care less, when what they really mean is they couldn’t care less. I don’t know why this is such a common thing in the US. But I’ll stop before I say anything else about that country which I might regret later…