Easily Confused Words: Broach vs. Brooch

Broach and brooch 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.

Broach (pronounced “br-oh-ch”) is a verb. It means  puncturing tools used to cut stone, open a cask, or a puncturing spit for roasting meat over fire. It can also mean a spire at the top of a building that appears to “puncture” the skyline. A whale or dolphin broaches the ocean waters when they jump, or rise to the surface to breathe. A submarine broaches the ocean when it’s getting closer to its home shores.

It means to introduce and bring up a topic for the first time, typically a subject that’s a hard one to discuss. Like a parent having “The Talk” with their teens about sex, drinking, and illegal drugs.

Brooch (pronounced “brew-ch”) is a noun. It means a decorative pin worn by ladies. Typically, it has a clasping pin attached to its backside. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright has a vast collection of brooches. [Just to complicate matters, it’s also spelled broach in some circles.]

So how do you avoid making a mistake? Just don’t say you’re going to brooch the subject with someone. That’s always broach. It’s the fashion accessory that can go either way.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Brody was having an awkward first day as a TSA agent. How to broach the subject of what was triggering the metal detector over and over. Some people were slow to realize that their brooches or other accessories were the problem. Then he had to reassure them they would get their items back immediately after getting the green light from the detector.

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