Easily Confused Words: Greece vs. Grease

Greece and grease 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.

Greece (pronounced “grEE-ss” ) is a proper noun. It means the country on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula, on the Aegean and Ionian Seas, across from Turkey. Greece is made up of two peninsulas and many islands. Its people are Greeks. Greece calls itself Ellas.

Grease (pronounced “grEE-ss”) has multiple forms.

  • As a noun, in food, it means a sticky paste created from the fat of animals or plant-based natural oils.
  • As a noun, in cars, it’s a sticky, often petroleum-based paste designed to help parts function smoothly and without rusting.
  • As a verb, to grease means to add grease or oil to a cooking surface before heating that surface. This prevents the food from sticking to the pot or pan in the cooking process. Other non-food surfaces can be greased as well: car parts, machines, etc.
  • As a proper noun. The stage musical Grease, created in the 1970s, is an homage to teenage 1950s culture in the US. The “greasers” were working class teenage males who slicked their hair with grease (now called pomade); they wore leather jackets, white tees, and jeans. They spent a lot of time on their cars or motorcycles, and racing cars and motorcycles, in order to impress women. Often they smoked cigarettes. The movie American Graffiti and the TV shows Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley also celebrate 1950s culture.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Giorgio was about to head to Santorini, Greece, for vacation. He wondered if he needed to pack gel, grease, or other hair product for the trip. But it was so hot that summer he opted to shave his head instead of trying to maintain a difficult coif. 

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