Easily Confused Words: Fingering vs. Fingerling

Fingering and fingerling 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.

Fingering is the gerund form of the verb finger. To finger means use one’s fingers to play music, touch something, or toy with something.

  • In crime news, if a suspect is “fingered”, he/she has been confirmed at the scene of the crime by witnesses, or DNA evidence.
  • With waterways, if a dock “fingers” onto a river or harbor, it extends out over the waterway.

Fingerling is an adjective. It describes objects that are several inches long but have a small diameter, much like a human finger. For example, grocery stores offer long, thin potatoes in a plastic bag, and these are called fingerling potatoes.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Finn was starved after he came back from class. There was a roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes waiting in the fridge. It didn’t have a nametag on it, so he took a few bites and failed to cover his tracks. He went to his bedroom to play video games online.

Hours later, his roommate Paul came home. When he opened the fridge, he was horrified at what he discovered. He shouted, “Who’s been fingering my nana’s home cooking?! That was MY chicken and potatoes!”

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