Easily Confused Words: Swayed vs. Suede

Swayed and suede are easily confused words. They are homophones, meaning words that sound identical but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

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’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Swayed (pronounced “swade”) is the past tense of the verb sway. It means movements made in the past. To be swayed means to be influenced or convinced of a different position.

Suede (pronounced “swade”) is a noun. It means a fabric covered in short furry hairs. Suede is used for cold weather clothing, fall/winter shoes, and for stuffed toys for very small infants. Originally made from animal hide, more synthetic varieties have emerged in the last 20 years.

The following story uses both words correctly:

When Swaantje swayed to the music at Fall Formal, her stone encrusted suede shoes sparkled with light from the mirrorball overhead. 

Easily Confused Words: Born vs. Borne


Born and borne 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’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Born has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb. It means to be expelled from a uterus following the rupture of the amniotic sac and the beginning of labor pains. These pains and the sac breakage indicating to the female that it’s time to push the baby, or babies, out of her body so they can being breathing on their own.
  • As an adjective, it describes someone who has talent in their genes. For example, a born athlete, or a born musician.
  • As an adjective, when used hyphenated with a location, it describes someone with local roots since the beginning of his/life: Houston-born, Tennessee-born.
  • As a past participle of the verb bear, which means to bring forth, or head in a certain direction.  For example: Before it caught a disease, our family apple tree had born fruit for thirty years. In spring seasons, it bore flowers. In the late summers, it would bear fruit, I would climb its branches to get an afternoon snack. 

Borne is a verb. It means a person or thing being carried by something else.

For example, AIDS and Hepatitis are blood-borne viruses. Exposure of your tissues or bodily fluids to the bodily fluids of an infected person means being infected yourself.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Bjorn was born on a cold day in February. Living in a small village outside Stockholm, he became interested in diseases and blood borne illnesses from an early age.  

Laws & Principles (Observational, Not Legal)

There are some laws and principles used in American journalism that are referenced very often. It’s presumed the audience knows them by their name.

Unlike Einstein and relativity, or Newton and gravity, I suspect everyone knows the ideas presented below, but not the man or woman behind them. These laws are not scientific, they’re more behavioral observations.

I thought I’d devote a blogpost to summarizing a few of them here:

Dilbert Principle: Created by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip. It says that companies promote the least talented employees while the most talented are stuck where they started. The most talented are so effective where they are, management doesn’t want to risk losing their output by moving them elsewhere.

Godwin’s Law: Created by Mike Godwin. It says the longer a discussion goes on, the likelihood someone will reference Hitler or Nazis, or compare someone or something to Nazis, reduces to 1.

Hofstadter’s Law: Dr. Douglas Hofstadter of observed this one. It says any activity takes longer than people originally think it will, even if those people take into account Hofstadter’s Law. 

Murphy’s Law: There wasn’t necessarily a “Murphy,” most likely it was a De Morgan. The gist of the law is, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. 

Pareto’s Law: Pareto was an Italian economist who noticed 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pods. Management consultant Joseph Juran created the law, and named it after Pareto. It says 80% of results come from the input of 20%. For example, companies find 80% sales come from 20% of customers.

Parkinson’s Law: Cyril Northcote Parkinson was a Naval historian who submitted a humor piece to the Economist in 1955, followed by two books on similar themes. His law says the amount of work expands to fill the time allowed to complete it.

A political spin on this idea is that bureaucracy will grow and grow unimpeded within an organization. Unfortunately, the more layers that exist, the less effective the whole thing becomes, and the more costly it is for the organization to do much of anything.

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: Also the observation of Cyril Northcote Parkinson. The gist of the law: the more trivial the issue is, the more time is spent dwelling on it. The converse is also true, that difficult, complex, dangerous decisions are made in haste. 

Peter Principle: Introduced by Laurence J. Peter, it says that employees get promoted and continue to get promoted until they are barely effective, if not completely ineffective in their roles. 

Poe’s Law: Introduced by Nathan Poe on a Christian messageboard. The synopsis: Unless you accompany your humorous, sarcastic, kidding, or facetious posts online with an emoticon (later, emojis), or a phrase like *Sarcasm intended*, readers will assume you were serious about what you wrote. Without body language, voice inflection, or the benefit of knowing the other person’s humor, internet exchanges are prone to misunderstandings. Poe was originally talking about creationists, but the law has since bled over into any subject area discussed on the internet.

So, did I forget one of your faves? Please let me know and I can include it in a followup to this post. I will credit you for it, unless you tell me otherwise.

 

 

 

Easily Confused Words: Knell vs. Knoll

Knell and knoll 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’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Knell (pronounced “nehll”) is a noun. It means the low, slow ringing of a large bell. Typically knells are rung after a funeral or other somber, reflective occasions.

Knoll (pronounced “nohll”) is a noun. It means a low sloping area of ground, like a small hill. Perhaps the most famous knoll in the US is the Grassy Knoll of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. President John F. Kennedy was shot during a November 1963 motorcade. Ultimately Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination. Oswald, a communist sympathizer, was on the sixth floor of a book depository looking down on the motorcade route and using a rifle to fire shots. However, a lot of people have theories and questions about Oswald being the actual killer, or the only assassin involved. Witnesses and a second possible assassin were believed to be located on the Grassy Knoll.

Abraham Zapruder‘s film of the parade and the assassination is a major source of information about that day’s events. A bystander who had brought his home video camera to record a historic Presidential visit, Zapruder became an accidental citizen journalist and overnight celebrity once the assassination had occurred. Click his name to learn more.

The following story uses both words correctly:

On a cold, wet winter day, Knox was a pallbearer at his grandmother’s funeral. It was very hard to maintain his composure as he passed the red puffy faces of the crowd and the bells let out mournful knells overhead. It was a long drive to the graveyard. No one spoke, and the men remained stoic.

As he and the other pallbearers climbed the steep knoll to the gravesite, he had to emotionally distance himself from the moment and focus on keeping his balance.

Easily Confused Words: Distain vs. Disdain

Distain and disdain 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’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Distain (pronounced “dihs-tane”) is a verb. It means to soil one’s clothes, furniture, or another surface. [Yes, this is one of those odd times in English where “stain” and “distain” mean basically the same thing.]

Figuratively, distain could be used to indicate damaging something more abstract, like a reputation or a public persona.

Disdain (pronounced “dihs-dane”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means showing contempt or extreme dislike of others, or behaving in snobbish, unresponsive way, as if another person isn’t worthy of engaging with or responding to in any fashion.
  • As a noun, it means an attitude of extreme dislike, contempt that’s reflected in a person’s speech or behavior towards something else. In this year’s election cycle (2016), we’ve seen a whole lot of disdain on display from presidential candidates, surrogates, and political action committees (PACs).

The following story uses both words correctly:

Eurydice sensed her fellow beauty contestants disdained her. They would try anything to get her disqualified. It was confirmed when Donatella dropped some makeup and distained Eurydice’s skirt right before she went onstage to sing. Thankfully she had brought a spare outfit and changed in the nick of time. 

Easily Confused Words: Whirls vs. Whorls

Whirls and whorls 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’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Whirls is a plural noun. Literally, whirls are swirling patterns, like funneling water or another liquid being pulled down from the center in a circular motion.

Whorls is a plural noun. Whorls are the wavy and loopy line patterns that form a spiral shape. They are found in wood grains, and found on the skin of some people’s fingers and toes.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Little Whitney loved to visit the lakes and rivers near her hometown. She and her dad often went canoeing. She dipped her whorled fingertips into the water whirls created by her dad’s paddle. Occasional fish swam up and softly nibbled her fingers. She realized she really loved nature. One day she would be an explorer, or park ranger.

Easily Confused Words: Carry-On vs. Carrion

Carry-on and carrion 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’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Carry-on is a noun. It means the bag an airline passenger brings on an airplane flight with them. Typically carry-ons, or carryons, have size and weight limitations.

In the phrase carry-on luggage, carry-on is an adjective.

Carrion is a noun. It means the bodies of dead animals out in the wilderness, on sidewalks, or on the side of the road. It can also mean something rotten or vile.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Corinne struggled to find out why her purse or carry-on smelled like carrion. Then she discovered the culprit: a balled up napkin with what looked like egg yolk in it. The other day at the grocery she got a call. When she wasn’t looking, her toddler had dropped on egg at the store, and meaning well, took tissues out of her purse to clean it up, then put the ball of dirty tissues back in her purse. Ugh.