Easily Confused Words: pome vs. poem

Pome and poem 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.

Pome is a noun. It means apple, pear, and quince in old French, deriving from Latin roots.

If you’ve traveled, maybe you have noticed these terms:

  • “pomme d’ terre,” or apple from the earth, is a potato
  • “pommes frites” are french fried potatoes
  • “pomodoro” and “Pomme d’ oro” literally “apple of gold” is a tomato

Potatoes and tomatoes came from the Americas, so in order to introduce them to Europe in the 1400s-1500s, they were given names that referenced something they already knew, pommes, or apples.

So why do the English (and their former colonies) call apples “apples”? I am going to guess the Anglo Saxons who invaded England so many many years ago.

Poem is a noun. It means literature that is writing in short, rhythmic phrases in groups of 3, 4, or more. Poetry is the genre of writing that is made up of poems. It has a lot of terminology that is covered in another post.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Pomona was a dedicated vegetarian, so much so she wrote poems about her favorite fruits and vegetables in both French and English. So she wrote about apples, then wrote about pomes.

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