Easily Confused Words: Teak vs. Take

Teak and Take are easily confused words. The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect also tries to anticipate what word you want based on the first few letters. But sharing letters doesn’t mean related words.

Teak is a noun. It means a tropical hardwood birch tree. When furniture, tools, or boats are made from this tree’s wood, those items are also called teak.

Take is a verb. It means to get a hold of, or get possession of. Take has several tenses: Take, Took (past), Taken (present).

There’s a number of phrases using “take”:

  • “take a look” is a request for someone to review something closely
  • “on the take” means accepting money in exchange for favorable treatment
  • “take advantage” means having an opportunity and little adversity
  • “take a chance” means having a high risk opportunity and doing it regardless

The following story uses both words correctly:

Takeo, a champion surfer, loved to take on the biggest waves off Hawaii’s coast. He also liked stand up paddle-boarding on a handcrafted teak board.

Easily Confused Words: Disparate vs. Desperate

Disparate and Desperate are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests words to try to save you time. Sometimes it’s right, but frequently it’s wrong and very funny.

Disparate is an adjective. It means two things or ideas that are very different.

Desperate is an adjective. It means a person feeling lots of hopelessness and frustration. Desperate people perceive limited choices and options.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Desmond and Destiny were identical twins, but they had very disparate personalties. Desmond, a star athlete, seemed to enjoy school and its social scene than his sister, a gifted music student. Destiny was desperate to receive as much attention as her brother did. It finally happened when she was accepted to Juilliard. 

Easily Confused Words: Her vs. Heir

Her and Heir are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Her is a noun, it is the objective case for a female. In sentences, it is used when a female possesses something, or is receiving something: I gave her book back yesterday. Her jacket is on the chair. That’s her over there.

Heir is a noun. The heir is the prince or princess next in line for a throne once the current monarch dies. In England, the heir is Prince Charles. In Japan, it’s Prince Naruhito.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Hersilia was beside herself with rage about the limited attitudes of her times: why couldn’t women ascend to the throne, why did heirs have to be male?

Easily Confused Words: Inn vs. In

Inn and In are easily confused words. The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway. Similarly, autocorrect on mobile phones might suggest one word instead of the other, it would be easy to do since both words start with “i-n.”

Inn is a noun. It means a place to sleep overnight that is not your residence. Inns are someone’s house put for a fee, they let travelers rent a room for a night or more.

Here in the US, franchises tend to use Inn, Hotel, Lodge, and Motel interchangeably in their business names (Comfort Inn, Marriott Hotel, Hampton Inn, Motel 6), but many places that call themselves lodges and motels are less expensive, and places calling themselves hotels are most expensive. In Europe, I imagine historic inns you find in smaller towns are what Americans think of as a B&B, or “bed and breakfast.”

In has multiple forms, all revolving around one’s location, or status, qualification, or importance. It’s the opposite of being on the outside, or being excluded. I admit, in is a word that’s hard to define “in” without using a “in” word: in, inclusion, included, inside, within. But do you notice the pattern in all those words? Maybe not.

  • In the adverb:
  • In the preposition: where you are physically, your career or industry type.
  • There’s also lots of phrases using ‘in”:
    • the “in” crowd: people with high status and influential tastes
    • “in the know”: people who are informed, know what’s important and are successful.
    • “having an in”: a person has guaranteed access to something that’s not available to all.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Inez

Easily Confused Words: Gild vs. Guild

Gild vs. guild are easily confused words and homophones.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Gild is a verb, it means to coat an object with gold. Typically its used in a gerund (-ing) and past tense (-ed) form. The idiom “gild the lily” means to add too much decoration when its not needed and it may even take away from the experience it’s meant to enhance.

Guild is a noun. It means a group of craftsmen, skilled workers, or warriors. Typically, this referred to groups in medieval times, but there are modern guilds. The Graphic Artists Guild is a professional group for people who work in graphic design, they publish a yearly guide for their members on rules and policies of working as a freelance designer. And “The Guild” is a web series starring Felicia Day, it follows the adventures and misadventures of a team of gamer friends who play a video game online. The longer the team knows each other and chats online, the more their lives tend to intersect in real life.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Gilbert was a wheelwright and metalsmith guilds of his small town in 1300s. At the lord’s request, he could also add gilding to sculptures and frames.

Easily Confused Words: Prawn vs. Pawn

Prawns and pawns are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Prawn is a noun. It means small crustaceans that feed on the bottom of the ocean, like a tiny lobster. Here in the US, we call them “shrimp”, but in the UK they are called “prawns.”

UPDATE: Since originally writing this post two years ago, I also learned that prawns are freshwater creatures; they are larger and meatier than most shrimp. They may be called langostas or langostinos. Shrimp can be freshwater or saltwater creatures.

Pawn has multiple forms:

  • Pawn the verb means to sell something you own in exchange for cash. The pawn shop who buys your stuff holds it. There’s a period when you can come back when you have the money and buy it back. If you don’t come back, they can resell it to someone else.
  • Pawn the noun means pieces on a chess board. They are the smallest, lowest worth pieces on the board. They form “the front line” for each player’s pieces.
  • Pawn the noun can be used as a figure of speech. It can mean something small or low in value used in negotiations.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Paz was a gifted chess player, slicing through her opponent’s pawns with ease. Her favorite snack was prawns with cocktail sauce. 

Easily Confused Words (at a Restaurant): Masala vs. Marsala

Marsala and Masala are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect also tries to anticipate what word you want based on the first few letters. But sharing letters doesn’t mean sharing meaning.

Marsala is an wine from Sicily. Like Sherry, Madeira, and Port, Marsala is named for its place of origin. Marsala is sweet dessert wine, it is not typically used for drinking like a Chianti or Montepulciano, but cooking and marinades.

Masala is a spice blend using in Indian cooking. It contains all brown spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and cumin.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Massimo was a fantastic chef without any formal training. For a charity benefit dinner, he served Chicken Tikka Masala appetizer, followed by a Vichysoisse soup, followed by a Veal Marsala main course.