Easily Confused Words: Coups vs. Coos

Coups and coos are easily confused words, they are also homophones. Homophones are words that sound identical, but they mean different things, and have different spellings.

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.

The word coups (pronounced “kooos”) is a plural noun. A coup is an attempted government takeover by an individual or group.

The word coos (pronounced “kooos”) is a plural noun, note the lowercase letter starting the word. This word indicates the sound a dove makes. It’s an example of onomatopoeia (pronounced “aw-no-mah-toe-pee-yuh”), which means English words created to indicate animal or other sounds. Meow, bark, and hoot are other examples of onomatopoeia. Every language has its own words for animal noises. Multiple websites exist that list these sounds for different countries.

[What about Coos (pronounced “kooos”)? It’s a proper noun, note the capital letter starting the word. It means a tribe of indigenous Americans that live in the upper Northwest of the continental United States. Here’s a link to their webpage which discusses their history. ]

The following story uses both words correctly:

The Co-Op party was a fringe organization that repeatedly attempted to stage coups of their government. They were tired of the borderline dictator attitudes of the president. 

Everyone in the group had a codename. They identified each other through the use of coos and whistles. Defying community curfew rules, they met in the forest at night when everyone else was asleep. 

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