Submitted by joe2 on September 28, 2005

Idea Vs. Ideal

Why do people say they have an Ideal instead of an Idea, which is correct?

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I have not heard anyone use the word ideal in place of idea, however it does not surprise me. Prehaps they mistake the two completely different words to mean the same thing, but think that Ideal is just a more educated form of the word idea. Where would they get such an ideal? ;)

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Uh...okay. Saying that something is ideal means that whatever the subject is, it's perfect or is close to perfection. Example: Having a mustang [car] is ideal. [I think I was sort of right...] Idea is something that gets invented in your head, like "Ooh, I got an idea! Let's go to a movie!" You get it? Idea and Ideal are similar, but are used in different contexts. Idea is a noun, and ideal is more of an adjective.

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i hear it alot.. but i live in the south and people talk funny. i always assumed ideal was wrong when i heard people say it but never knew for sure. i have always said idea.

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Haven't heard ideal, but I have sometimes heard idear, which I always react to when I hear it.

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I've heard it only from one person, but I heard it consistently from them, and they were decidedly using "ideal" in place of "idea"

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Only illiterate people say ideal in place of idea.

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I've got a speech impediment and I can't say idea, it always comes out with the 'l' sound at the end. Of course I always though everyone else was saying ideal too so I didn't realize the difference until my freshman year at college when a proffesor pointed out I was using the wrong word. Mikahbot has the right definitions

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CORRECT (noun):

"I have an ideal; that people be treated equally."

CORRECT (adjective):

"I have an ideal situation."

INCORRECT (noun):

"I have an ideal: let's go to White Castle!"

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I have never heard anyone use the word ideal in place of idea. if you have you must have spoken to some dumb people!

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I, too, have never heard ideal in place of idea. I can tell you that as a striving and moral person I do have ideals, and in some contexts might stress one particular one by saying I have an ideal. Is it possible that this is what you have encountered?

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"I have an idea" and "I have an ideal" are both correct sentences. But the meanings are quite different.

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hahah, i used to have a teacher that would always say "ideal" in place of the word idea. We would sit in class and count how many times she would say it. Man, was she dumb.

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I don't mean to sound like I am making fun of you Dominic, but I have never heard of a speech impediment similar to yours. Do you say all "ea" sounds with an "l" on the end?

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It really bugs me when people use the words "ideal" and "idea" wrong. With some people no matter how many times you correct them, they still use it wrong. We have an employee that ALWAYS says ideal instead of idea.

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One may encounter problems in Bristol, where it is customary to add an L to words ending in a vowel.

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I've heard a few people use 'Ideal' and never use the word 'Idea.' So, it must be regional ( I live in the South.)
I was wondering what the correct usage was, but something really threw me for a loop:
There is a line of feminine hygiene products that used to have the name 'Dry Idea' as the brand name.
Now I am seeing the same product being marketed as 'Dry Ideal.'
I thought 'Dry Ideal' sounded really weird for such an item and I wonder what prompted their marketing department to change it.

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i think it depends on the person saying it, whether they want to use "idea" or "ideal" for me, it depends on my sentence and how i want it to sound

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Victoria, it depends on the sentence in the sense that these are two completely different words and only one of the two is correct in any instance. If you're confused, here are some definitions from Dictionary.com:

idea:
1. any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity.
2. a thought, conception, or notion: That is an excellent idea.
3. an impression: He gave me a general idea of how he plans to run the department.
4. an opinion, view, or belief: His ideas on raising children are certainly strange.
5. a plan of action; an intention: the idea of becoming an engineer.

ideal (when used as a noun):
1. a conception of something in its perfection.
2. a standard of perfection or excellence.
3. a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation: Thomas Jefferson was his ideal.
4. an ultimate object or aim of endeavor, esp. one of high or noble character: He refuses to compromise any of his ideals.
5. something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.

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I've lived in Ohio, California and now Tennessee. In the South "ideal" is used instead of "idea." Many Northerners think Southerners are not educated, but that's simply not true.

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Really? Because I'd say using the incorrect word doesn't seem very educated. Maybe that's just me though. "Ideal" and "idea" are two different words and are not interchangeable.

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It Is amazing how many snobs have responded to this question. Everyone who has come out of the closet has heard someone pronounce the words interchanged. Not to mention that the words are sometimes similiar in what the person is trying to say, both being conceptions.

Personally I never mind what anyone says or does as long as they do not have a attitude while trying to correct someone when they are actually wrong.

I can not count how many times someone has tried to correct me on the Author Neil Gaiman's last name. Gay man and not Gy Man. I correct the one's who are quick to try and correct me, with obvious snobbery robbery. I already know that they think I am uneducated of this by his/her responce. I usually tell them to pick up his excellent readings of his work and listen to how he says his name and to stop correcting people so quickly before they know the facts. Otherwise, I do not care or Judge.

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I'm always amused ~ and amazed ~ by how many people posting declarations of "fact" on this website use appallingly bad grammar, spelling and punctuation in their posts!

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While "I have an ideal" is a completely valid sentence, it cannot be used interchangeably with the sentence "I have an idea."

When a novel notion suddenly strikes your mind, you get an idea.

When you develop a picture in your mind about how something should, in a perfect world, be, you have developed an ideal.

The two words mean completely different things.

My ultimate ideal is that people use words properly.

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If you are from the south..................

you will get "ideals" all the time. I heard it twice today!!!

Nothing like a little southern slang to give you a good laugh!

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I live in rural east TN, and using "ideal" when you really mean "idea" is as common here as saying "y'uns" when everybody knows the correct term is "y'all." 8-D

Incidently, they not only SAY "ideal" when the correct term is "idea," but they also WRITE it that way in emails and on community BBs, which leads me to the conclusion that many of them really don't differentiate between the two words..

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I've been North, South, East & West, and here in Appalachia is the only place where I have heard the word "ideal" used, both in speaking and writing, where the meaning would call for the word "idea." It is interesting and amusing, but I have not taken pains to correct my co-workers or associates.

Furthermore, I think it is judgemental to call someone "dumb" or "uneducated" because of this usage. I work with intelligent and educated people who make this usage. It is quite conceivable to me that a person can go through his educational experience and miss this correct usage due to the heavy colloquial usage around him.

What is more interesing around these (here) parts is the use of the word "queer," pronounced "quare" to mean strange, yet pronounced "queer" to mean homosexual. Trying to get them to spell "quare," or get them to acknowledge that it is spelled "queer" is hopeless. 8-D

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About a year ago, I began seeing a gentleman that was born and raised in Northern CA. He would always ask me what I thought of an ideal he had. He meant idea, so I would reply, "I think that is a good idea." I was hoping he would get the message he was mispronouncing the word. He was far from being ignorant, but I thought his mispronunciation made him seem that way. Perhaps it is a regional thing. I've heard ideal used in the place of idea several times since then, by several different people. Maybe they can be as tolerant of me, when I ask in mixed company, "What do you guys feel like doing this weekend?"

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I am confused. I googled Idea vs Ideal and This website popped up. The comments are all nice opinions, but why isn't the correct usage of the two words defined before all the comments are listed or am I supposed to look somewhere else for that?

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So basically inconclusion, there are some people who don't know the difference between "ideal" and "idea". It isn't that they're "uneducated ididots", more like maybe some time during their education they were taught the wrong usage of the words.

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Why are we discussing this? There really shouldn't be a discussion. I mean come on. Only idiots use ideal in place of idea. And someone posted something about Idear...retard...

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Speakin to the person above me...oh yeah....and DO SOME WORK!!

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I am so not talking to you anymore.

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If you actually have the ideal that an education gives you the right to belittle people without one, then you have never had an idea of your own. Perhaps you should take a class in compassion.

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Wow you people really get off on the small things I certainly didn't realize the misuse of idea & ideal made you an idot & stupid.

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When I went to college in a neighboring state many years ago, I heard for the first time the misuse of 'ideal' - I married and remained in that state and was able to successfully teach my husband of the misuse of the two terms (and now my children also know this); however, I work in a school district that sheds some light on the subject in my neck of the woods, so to speak. Teachers and administrators, who are highly intelligent individuals misuse the term daily (we are ranked among the top 5 in our state in our state assessment testing and 80+% of our students successfully complete college). While I do not correct my friends and co-workers, I do teach college classes and I make sure that my public speaking students know the difference. (My college students will actually lose 5 points off their speech assignments if they misuse this term). The misuse of words does not make a person an idiot, but ignorant of the correct usage. I'm sure that all of us make these mistakes at some point in our lives and should be more tolerant. Even though we may use ideal and idea correctly, we may do something else that gets on others nerves just as much. I am glad to have found this website as this is a huge pet peeve of mine! I was even beginning to doubt if I was correct, I hear it so much - which is what led me to google ideal vs idea. (Please forgive any typos or grammatical errors I may have made in this post) :)

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I have lived in Texas now for several years and constantly hear "I think that is a good ideal" and "I have a good ideal", It must be regional as I had never heard it used before. I see a red flag whenever I hear this. I have questioned some people that use it like that and they will argue to the end that they are correct. Did I grow up wrong?

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i hate stupid people so so so so much. The previous sentence is not really having anything to do with this blog. i just felt like stating that i hate stupid individuals.

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My wife's family are from Virginia and they all say ideal instead of idea. They write it too. They weren't aware that it was incorrect English.

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Don't assume people who say "ideal" as a noun are entirely wrong in using it. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, "ideal" can be used as a noun if the idea in and of itself is ideal. Here's the word-for-word definition:

i-de-al: adj. 1. existing as an idea, model, etc. 2. thought of as perfect 3. existing only in the mind; imaginary --n. 1. a conception of something in its most excellent form 2. a perfect model 3. a goal or principle

So, let's say your high school English teacher says the word and you laugh, thinking she's stupid. If she were talking about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, she would be correct in her usage because he had envisioned ideals of the human social position.

However, if your teacher we're talking about how some idiot football player had gotten the "ideal" into his head to cheat on the last English test, that would have been incorrect usage due to how imperfect the idea of cheating is. Aside from moral and ethical issues it brings about, there's always a chance of getting caught, no matter how discreet the method is-if someone were to discover the ideal way to cheat, I would be grateful, believe me; I hate studying.

Anyway, I hope this has cleared some of the confusion up, granted I'm about four years late.

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Dear Sneed,

At least they knew to capitalize. If you are going to clear dust from someone's eyes, make your to remove the plank from yours first.

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for all you prats that think you are so f-n smart the word ideal can and is often used as a noun, hence the confusion many have with the word idea. e.g "...but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents." anyone recognize were that came from?

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My husbands entire family uses the word "ideal" instead of "idea". It irritates me to no end! I've told him it's wrong, but I guess since his entire family does it, he assumes I must be wrong.
If I hear, "that's a good ideal" again, I may have to get a divorce...lol

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Hey, Silly Rabbit, everyone here knows that ideal can be a noun. WHAT are you talking about?

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Well, I just can't pronounce it correctly. I know how to spell it, and i know what it means. I just pronounce it wrong.

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I am not sure as to why this occurs, but it seems to be a common mistake THROUGHOUT Southern Indiana. I have lived my life in Louisville, Ky. We are right across the Ohio River from Southern Indiana. My wife taught for thirty years in S.IN.
And she concurs that this is a rampant "problem" over there.
ANYtime that I hear someone around these parts switch the two words, the chance is almost 100% that they are from S.IN.
Both of the words are in the dictionary. Both words are definitely taught for spelling and definition (How could they NOT be?). Yet "these people" continue to come up with grand concepts and claim that they have an "idea ideal".
They learn the spellings of the words....they learn the definitions...and they still switch the two. What's the deal here? And many of them actually seem to be reasonably intelligent, otherwise.
So, what is going on, I "aks" you that?

...and I am curious if there are OTHER pockets of the country where this ridiculous switck-a-roo happens regularly.

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I am not sure as to why this occurs, but it seems to be a common mistake THROUGHOUT Southern Indiana. I have lived my life in Louisville, Ky. We are right across the Ohio River from Southern Indiana. My wife taught for thirty years in S.IN.
And she concurs that this is a rampant "problem" over there.
ANYtime that I hear someone around these parts switch the two words, the chance is almost 100% that they are from S.IN.
Both of the words are in the dictionary. Both words are definitely taught for spelling and definition (How could they NOT be?). Yet "these people" continue to come up with grand concepts and claim that they have an "idea ideal".
They learn the spellings of the words....they learn the definitions...and they still switch the two. What's the deal here? And many of them actually seem to be reasonably intelligent, otherwise.
So, what is going on, I "aks" you that?

...and I am curious if there are OTHER pockets of the country where this ridiculous switch-a-roo happens regularly.

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I have a colleague who says, "that's a good ideal" instead of "that's a good idea." We live in Michigan, and she is the first person I have ever heard that from. I always want to correct her, but I'm horribly afraid of embarrassing her. I wish she'd pick up on the word "idea," however, because when she uses "ideal" she really does sound uneducated.

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We mentioned this idea/ideal thing to a close friend from Southern Indiana a few weeks back. He switched the verbal usage and I gingerly entered into the discussion with him as to having noticed the S. Indiana common switch of the two words, asking
"what was up?", from his viewpoint.
He DID get a little riled and defensive (but not too much), citing that it's no different than someone from (usually) the country saying "crick" instead of "creek". "It's just the way we say it. What's the big deal?", he responded.
That just doesn't seem the same to me. One is a "lazy-slur" sort of thing and the other is a total mis-usage, no different than saying, "I had the CONCERT of giving a CONCEPT" instead of saying , "I had the CONCEPT of giving a CONCERT".

I dunno!

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Reference back to March, 2009/ Silly Rabbit's comment:
The word "ideal" CAN be used as a noun, yes. But in the context in which most were referring in this matter, that "mis-useage" of IDEAL is not as in the definitional circumstances cited following this comment, which hold its usage as a noun for referring to a lofty or high-held concept or goal. That is not the same, as I said, contextually.
************
i·de·al? ?[ahy-dee-uhl, ahy-deel]
–noun
1.
a conception of something in its perfection.
2.
a standard of perfection or excellence.
3.
a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation:Thomas Jefferson was his ideal.
4.
an ultimate object or aim of endeavor, esp. one of high or noble character: He refuses to compromise any of his ideals.
5.
something that exists only in the imagination: To achieve the ideal is almost hopeless.
6.
Mathematics. a subring of a ring, any element of which when multiplied by any element of the ring results in an element of the subring.

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...AND, VERY commonly, in "these regional mis-usages", the two words "idea" and "ideal" are switched, one for the other, as opposed to only one being mis-used.
example: "That ideal is idea" instead of "That idea is ideal".

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Not to judge anyone, English is my second language, yet I speak fluently. When I see a text, left by someone on message boards, and in this text all the "idea"s are substituted by "ideal"s and this person was born and raised somewhere in the United States, it irritates me. But this person carries on, and leaves more texts on the same message boards, and somehow manages to turn every word "idea" into "ideal". Well, I just don't know what to say about that. Sure he admits that his family didn't have enough money to provide him with good education, but he's a book author, for God's sake! And guess what? In his book, all the same mistakes are made.

Sometimes, even I am confused by which one he means, until I read the full sentence.

Example: "I have an Ideal, (ok, good for you!) let's go to the beach!" (you mean you, your ideal, and I?) Oh wait...I got you. Your IDEA, is that we should go to the beach! AHA! Or "you have no ideal (how dare you accuse me of having no ideals! I've got plenty.) about what's happening around you."

But the "ideal" thing aside, this guy/author is fairly intelligent, issues he writes about, are of high interest to me at this time in my life. I guess I have to be more patient and try to look past how he types but instead focus on the messages he conveys.

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I have heard this usage form many of my friends that are not from the south at all, they happen to be from the Norther counties of Indiana near Chicago. I do know that it happens quite often in the Souther states and I think it is in the Dialect. The Northern counties of Indiana are not in the Midland Dialect and even though most of the Southern counties are there is still heavy influence from other dialects also, this is probably the reason for the 'Ideal' - 'Idea' flip.

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If someone uses "ideal" for the word "idea, they are simply ignorant.....nothing more, nothing less. The words have two completely different meanings! I was raised in the north but now reside in the south and personally know two people here that mix these words constantly. Another misuse is the pronunciation of the word "often".....the "t" is silent!

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I have a guy at work that says ideal when idea should be used. Drives me crazy!!!!!!!!!

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I live in Atlanta, and I don't recall hearing this misuse of the word of ideal until I moved to the South. Maybe the misspelling followed the mispronunciation...either way, it drives me crazy. There are so many other misused words around here, I have a scar on my tongue from biting it to keep it from correcting people.

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Drives me insane to hear the misuse of words. But maybe the people who use ideal in the wrong text are uneducated but there are adult education classes available.

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My boss at work uses "ideal" instead of "idea" all the time. As a matter of fact, she uses "were" in places "was" should be, and "oncest" (which isn't even a word) in places "once" should be used. It drives me crazy!

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Everyone has the right to talk the way they want to. If that bothers you then you are the one with issues. Personally when I have an idea I think it is an ideal.

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if may you send new information for me.thanks you very much

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I have a friend from Tennesee who constantly uses "Ideal" when "Idea" should be used... She is an MD, a physician! She is very well educated and no dummy, therefore, I aways assumed it was part of a regional dialect.
Nonetheless, it is terribly annoying to anyone who values the proper use of the English language. Candace does sound stupid, the Southern drawl doesn't help! Then I wondered - people often associate a Southern accent with ignorance, even though logic and experience tells us that there are many well educated Southerners. So why the stigma? Perhaps, it is the regional misuse and mispronunciations that linger in our subconscious giving the overall impression that Southerners are not that bright.
Like Fashindiva, I lived in Atlanta and constantly shuddered at the bad pronunciation and rampant malapropisms. Their speech is really dreadful, they should not be surprised people think them dumb - and if they don't like the stigma, instead of saying "that's how we talk," they should work to change things!

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I live in Tn. now and have heard the word ideal used in place of idea. I am from the north and because I "talk funny" people assume that I am a snob. It is hard not to blurt out a correction, but I just want to try and get along with my co-workers. What's a Yankee gal to do?

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OMG!!! This drives me nuts!!! Nothing makes you sound more like a moronic illiterate idiot than saying you have an "ideal"!!!

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You folks all have too much time on your hands! But if we're gonna pursue this subject (which became a curiosity to me when I, too, moved to the south (barely - Kentucky), let's look at how easily we accept regional idioms, which surely make no sense to those learning ESL! And regional pronunciations, such as JFK pronouncing "idea" as "idear" and words like "beta" as "baiter." Me, I think I'll pour a relaxing glass of wine and lament the disappearance of the subjunctive mood - I still say, "if I were...." And we could go on and on....

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OMG, I just noticed the punctuation error in my post of seconds ago - now some of you will declare that I am ignorant - another glass of wine is in order!

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Thank you all for giving me the best laughs for years, reading your stuff on all this. I see the Civil War is still being fought on the linguistic front in the good old US of A.
On the other side of the herring pond the English have a problem similar to the idea/ideal thing: peninsula (noun)/ peninsular (adjective), so 'Peninsular War' seems okay if we are describing which war, but "the South-West Peninsular" is wrong! It is the South-West Peninsula! Like your correspondents, I feel really frustrated that I can't tell people who get it wrong, and just have to seethe. I used to put them right on everything when they were my kids, but now I am retired they aren't and I just have to put up with it.
You also prove my thing about Americans using the word "that" when "who" is the right one. Or is it just a Southern thing? That is fine for Americans, and none of my business, really, but now it is happening here in the UK and I don't like it here! My rants on this matter appear elsewhere in this forum.
Please keep up the good work on idea/ideal.

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Nope, not just a Southern thing. (does "southern" have to be capitalized? we could drive ourselves crazy with all this nit-picking!) I have grandchildren who attend one of the top 3 rated public school systems in all of Hamilton County/Southwest Ohio. The communiques that come home - under the signature of teachers, secretaries, even the Principal - are appalling - spelling, grammar, punctuation - "that" where "who" is correct - ad infinitum.
..
Which tells me that in college, no more was expected of THEM! Trickle down, and too late to stop it, because so few of us care. And I am not an intellectual snob; I just had teachers who cared, and it stuck with me.
To be honest, a number of my profs in college "commented" on my "casual" style of writing (translation: they didn't like it). Sorry, it's just me, and while I often write in the "bullet points" style, i.e. incomplete sentences - works well in marketing and advertising - I know when it is acceptable and when it's not..
I still hold firm, though, that some of these things are with us and we can't change them, so we need to grow up, lay back, and not get out drawers in a wad about every little written or verbal transgression. We can enjoy one another, and commiserate, but jeez, we don't need to "seethe."

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Here's how/when I think it all began to go awry: I will celebrate my 70th next month, so you know where I'm coming from. I can remember in Mrs. Thompson's 4th grade geography class - when we turned in a written assignment, or a written/essay test question, we were graded not only on content, but on grammar, spelling, punctuation - the whole nine yards. Because Mrs. Thompson knew all of those rules herself, and knew they were important.

Today's teachers (last 20 years) not only don't know the rules; they don't care, and if they're teaching geography, e.g., they feel it is not their responsibility to teach grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Hell, they CAN'T teach what they don't even know themselves. Sad state of affairs. But then, they're unionized now....and that's a whole 'nother can of worms...

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Nan,

really enjoyed the one about getting one's drawers in a wad about it. In England it is "getting your knickers in a twist", by the way, but I like your phrase better.

Yes, I know all about teachers. Too much! They don't like it when their own poor command of the language is noted. I should know. They do not feel it is "trendy" or "enjoyable for the pupils" to worry about such trivia, so to "make it fun" they ignore it. So sad.

Keep the comments coming!

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My Pastor uses ideal inappropriately instead of idea all the time. It really bothers me and I was concerned about whether to correct him on this or not. I have never heard anyone else do this, and so I was curious about whether anyone else had. Interesting to find this blog and read all the comments and observations, some of which are unfortunately insenstive to the point of rudeness.

I don't think he is stupid, but I do think it makes him sound less intelligent by saying ideal instead of idea. He also mispronounces a few other words from time to time. Even worse, he will occasionally use a similar sounding word, and I had to draw the line on correcting him when he spoke in a sermon once of Sexual Imortality instead of Imorality. Of course I was not going to jump up during services and point this out. At first I thought it was just a Freudian slip, and did not say anything. When I later heard him make the same mistake in a small group prayer meeting, I could not help myself - and pointed out the discrepancy. He has not used the word since.

I do not believe his speech issues are strictly a dialectic thing. Perhaps they are associated to a speech disorder or simply lack of attention to and comprehension of proper pronunciation. I wonder what speech pathologists have to say about this?

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Maybe that is why he is a Pastor.

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Um...To that first guy Dylan M....you're an idiot.

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Why is it that people in the south don't listen well?
It is as if they stop listening halfway through a sentence.
I have never heard such poor ELEMENTARY grammar when I lived in the north.
This even goes for so called educated people in the south.
What is it?
I've lived here many years now and find it unbelievable.

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I don't (find it unbelievable) - sorry to say, but I just think that "Frankly, my dear, they don't give a damn." Just look at some of the notices sent home from school with the kids, written by teachers, worse yet, administrators! Horrendous grammar and spelling.

It all went to hell when someone convinced the Geography/History/Science teachers that they did not have to mark students down for poor spelling/grammar, as long as the content was more or less on the mark. Beginning of the end.....

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What is this ... gang up on Southerners? OK, I've lived in many places in the US (I moved around a bit in the Army for a few years) and I can tell you that some of the biggest hicks live north of the Mason-Dixie line and out on the west coast. We had one guy we called Moon from Indiana who had the worst country accent and way of talking that I have ever heard and I've been all over the South (and yes, south should be capitalized in this context). BTW, Moon was a great guy and a good soldier.

If you haven't hear such poor grammar in the north, then you just haven't been in the right places to hear it or talked to right folks.

Anent accents, I'll take a Southern accent over a New York, New Jersey, or New England any day of the week. I was at Ft. Devens outside of Boston and at Ft. Dix in NJ ... Nice folks but they sure did talk funny! ... And it grated on the ears!

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I knew someone who would say 'ideal' instead of "idea"...But he had a speech impairment. As do those who mispronounce economic with a short 'E'...The correct way is Eekonomic!

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WTF are you people talking about? "I have an ideal about that" is perfectly correct! I have a phd in computer science so I know what I'm effing talking about!

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I'd never realised that a PhD in Computer Science made you an expert on English, effing or otherwise. In any case you seem to be pretty well alone in your correctness. Google has precisely 9 hits for "I have an ideal about that" as opposed to over a million for "I have an idea about that". What's more Google Books, which is perhaps a better measure, as books get proofread and edited, has absolutely no hits for the 'ideal' version, although there are more than two thousand for the 'idea' version.

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In the South it is more likely to be spoken as "ideal". So yes I would agree that it is regional more than anything else. I certainly wouldn't call a person dumb because of it, it's kind of like pop,soda or coke. Everything in the deep south was a coke, cokes started in the south and was the only soft drink. What I would call dumb is when folks see my name A.L. and pronounce it Al.

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there is a guy who does telephone videos on youtube (fixes them) and he ALWAYS says Ideal instead of idea, for example "that was a pretty good ideal" or "its a good ideal to do ......." and so on... its A1TELEPHONE username on youtube, he has over 500 videos and uses Ideal in place of idea in alot of them....

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My husband heard his friend use the word "ideal" now he uses it all the time. He also says sup POS AB ly (i dont even know how to spell it) instead of supposedly. grrr. He is not dumb in any way...he lives in Michigan

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I never knew they werent the same, until my boyfriend told me and I wanted to talk right so I have been working on it!!! I guess I wasn't told in school.

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If you listen to speeches by Ben Carson a neurosurgeon (search "ben carson liberty university" on youtube), he clearly uses ideal where you would expect him to say idea. In the cases I have noticed it would be stretch to use the word ideal.

Strange world

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As an English teacher in the South....I always instruct my students to use "idea" as a noun....and to use "ideal" as an adjective. I was taught that "idea" meant a thought and "ideal" meant a perfect situation. This is one of my pet peeves. However; I cannot tolerate when individuals say salmon incorrectly!!! The "l" is SILENT!

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@Jan Morrow - does that mean you have no ideals (noun)? :))

More interestingly, there are times when either could be appropriate. Here are some example sentences from four different advanced learner's dictionaries:

"It's my ideal of what a family home should be."
"Sophie represented his ideal of beauty."
"the ideal of a free and democratic society"
"the socialist ideal of equality for all members of society"
"The ideal would be to have a place in the town and one in the country."

These are all from the entries for ideal, but idea could work equally well in these examples, but with a subtle difference in meaning.

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there sure are a lot of pretentious douchebags on here.

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@daniel owens - nice of you to drop by and give us your fascinating insights into this debate. But somehow I seemed to miss what your language point was? It obviously came as a bit of a shock to you that on a language discussion website people actually discussed language, rather than think that throwing out cheap insults constituted a useful contribution. But I suppose it takes all sorts.

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So, daniel owens - what's YOUR excuse for being on here?

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Dittos, Warsaw Will! That was an ideal idea, to respond thus.

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I will not try to be politically correct. They say ideal instead of idea because they are stupid. They are usually trying to sound intelligent. They are Bumpkins. I correct them often, and have no idea why I'm compelled to do so.. I guess I'm just that kind of bitch. Now I said it. Have a great day all readers.

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Idea/ideal are homophones/heterographs in certain Southern accents. Pronouncing idea as "ideal" doesn't necessarily indicate that the speaker doesn't know or distinguish between the separate meanings of the words, though that may be the case in some situations. Another example that may provide some understanding for those who are quick to label these individuals as stupid is the pronunciation of pin and pen in the American South. Though the shared pronunciation leans toward the more standard pronunciation of pin, the speaker obviously isn't requesting a "pin" when he or she is asking for something to write with.

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I work at Lowes, and our general manager is always saying "ideal" in place of the word "idea". For instance, "You see a customer browsing the wallpaper and blinds, theyre looking for ideaLs.", she always does it and its so funny to see new people look around the room like WTF when they first hear it.
She also cant say "hundred", she says "HundreT", same with any other word ending in red. Freaking wierd, she's from Chicago, maybe that's got something to do with it, I mean those people were dumb enough to elect Obama as their Governor, maybe they all say "ideal" and "hundret".

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@Melvis D. Dixon - People in glass houses. Perhaps somebody who talks about Obama being elected governor of Chicago (or perhaps you mean Illinois?) shouldn't be quite so quick to call others "dumb enough", just because they speak a bit differently from you. Even a non-American like me knows that:

a) Chicago doesn't have a governor (although Illinois does)
b) Obama has never been elected the governor of anywhere (or mayor for that matter), but was a state senator for Illinois and then a US senator
c) this is a site about English, which can be contentious enough without bringing politics into it, so can we keep politics out of it, please?

I've no doubt that somebody somewhere thinks you speak "funny" too. Most of us do to some other people. In Britain, every city has its own accent, but most of us don't criticise each other for that; we just see it as part of life's rich tapestry. How about a bit of "live and let live"?

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I think this is a regional thing in many parts of the country. Also, I think the thought behind this is that the person using the word "Ideal" wants to emphasize that they have the best idea or that they want others to come up with high quality ideas. I think it would be better to just say, "Come up with an idea and make it your best." But, maybe these people have seen people come up with lazy, stupid or meaningless ideas and they want to emphasize that they want quality ideas. It is incorrect usage, but I think I understand the motivation. Also, once this becomes a regional dialect, it is hard to change. If someone wants to change, they will. If they are not motivated, they won't. Since English keeps changing, it will be interesting to see if the two words don't somehow merge in the future. As for me personally, it grates on my nerves when I hear people say ideal, when they mean idea. But, it is more important to be gracious, so I hold my tongue and say nothing.

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Idea: a formulated thought or opinion
Ideal: a standard of perfection

I was born and raised in Texas. In my late teens I was informed by my uncle, a Yankee ( from New York), that I was incorrectly using ideal in place of idea. The conversation probably took 30 minutes for me to figure out the words were not interchangeable. For about 7 years now, I have lived in the Midwest and most people have no idea what region I am from which is no small feat for someone from the South. A funny thing happened to me today when I was told I was saying ideal in place of idea which is 100% not the case. I am fully aware and tend to correct myself if this does happen; I am even a little OCD about it. Another person I trust told me he heard "ideal" too and that he hears me use it a lot. So I have to conclude that while I may be saying idea my annunciation is not distinct enough for people to hear the difference between the "ea" and the "al" sound.

This is definitely a regional issue and while I always try to use the correct verbiage when I speak, I can never get why people have to be so pedantic when they clearly understand the idea a person is trying convey. Oh how I wished we lived in my ideal world.

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Why do you want to place blame on Stupidity for the incorrect usage of a word. So easy for you intellectual humans to use the word STUPID in a sentence. ROTFLMSFAO or should it be ROTFFLOFSAO?

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We humans are intellectual, you say i.e. having the capacity to understand, from Latin 'intellego' = understand from Latin 'leg-, lect-' = read, and Latin "inter" meaning between, or among. That's true enough. That is what makes our species home sapiens, or 'wise man', after all: we have the ability to understand things, and read between the lines to help do so. In other words to put two and two together. Dialectica.
But you say that you hares prefer to use the term 'ROTFLMSFAO or should it be ROTFFLOFSAO? where we humans use 'STUPID'. Well, if you say so; I'll have to take your word for it, as am not keen to join you in your burrow to verify your assertion, which seems a harmless enough one. I do not know the Latin of these words you say you prefer, as, from what you say, and the fact that they are wholly unpronounceable, they are in hare-speak. The Romans did not converse with hares, but they put them on the menu, where they had no need for a vocabulary, being totally skinned. (The hares, that is, not the Romans. Usually.)
The Latin roots of 'stupid' are stupeo, stupesco, stupidus, stupefacio, stupor, stupiditas, all having meanings to do with 'senseless, stunned (as you lot are in the headlights of an oncoming car), astounded, amazed, stupid and dull.
I have not replied to a cunicular correspondent before. Have you got Wi-Fi in your burrow? Until now I thought you lot just emitted shrill shrieks when alarmed. Certainly the tone of your remarks suggests a shrill shriek, or squeal. Happy hopping, when March comes round.

Now, if you describe us members of homo sapiens sapiens as 'intellectual', how do you describe your own species, caniculus incultus? Meanwhile I have forgotten what this discussion was meant to be about.

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@Brus - ROFLMAO = Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off - not so much hare-speak as web-speak. No, I didn't know either, but I do have Google. I think we can imagine what the extra S and F might be. Incidentally, hares don't live in burrows but in 'forms', depressions of flattened grass.

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My best friend uses ideal in place of idea. I've corrected her and she simply said it doesn't matter. She's the only person I've heard do that and we live in Mian. Bottom line is just that it's annoying. Nothing more.

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Stupid autocorrect. That was supposed to say we live in Michigan.

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I've never heard 'ideal' used for 'idea'. Maybe it's an American thing.
I notice, though, that 'ideal' is often pronounced with two syllables instead of three. That makes me raise an eyebrow like a pretentious douchebag.

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My neice does it all the time. Drives me crazy. I used to correct her, not anymore, now I just say Fff it. She's college educated,(lol) I actually heard some people use ideal instead of idea while having a discussion on a subject in a forum on a TV program

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People say ideal instead of idea in bristol, I've heard up to 5 people say it now, glad someone else brought it up because I though I was losing my marbles!lol

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