Easily Confused Words: Turrets vs. Tourette’s

Turrets and Tourette’s 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.

Turrets (pronounced “turr-itz”) is a plural noun. It means a small tower or pointed dome on a building. They were a common feature on castles and older forts, and they feature lookout points.

Tourette’s (pronounced “tour-ehtz”) is a possessive proper noun. Tourette’s is an inherited neuropathic condition noted for physical and verbal tics that aren’t easily controlled. It is a human condition named for Frenchman Gilles de Tourette, who documented his observations about nine patients with the yet unnamed disorder in 1885. Tourette was a peer of Charcot, the father of neuropathy.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Torrence found growing up with Tourette’s syndrome frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. Her peer group wasn’t compassionate, instead they poked fun, like tics were something that could only happen on purpose.

One day, Tyrone, a boy who was in several of her classes, invited Torrence to come on their field trip. The history club was making a day trip to see local castles and historic houses, and wrap up at the frozen yogurt shop. Finally she had found a friend, and a new crowd; she also realized she found something about architecture soothing. Even its words, like mansards, turrets, loggias, cornices, and friezes, brought a sense of calm and briefly abated her tics. That afternoon, she went home and began drawing buildings of her own creation. 

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