Easily Confused Words: Caul vs. Cawl

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.

Caul is a noun. It’s a membrane covering the head of a fetus, and it only occurs once in every 80,000 births. Given it’s rarity, it’s not surprising that superstition arose about cauls. Cauls were considered lucky in many Western European countries, sometimes indicating noble birth.

Cawl is a noun. It’s a hearty soup of bacon or beef, and lots of root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and leeks. It’s the national dish of Wales, a small country on the western side of England.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Kalamala was adapting to her new job as a nanny and house cook to pay her way through school. Her employer, a Welsh family, was very impressed with international flair for cookery, but rarebit and cawl remained their favorite dinner. Six months in, Kalamala acted as a midwife for their newest addition, Cai, who was born with a caul on his head. It was going to be so hard to say goodbye to this family once her college years were done, she thought.

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