Easily Confused Words: Sleet vs. Sleight

Sleet and sleight 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.

Sleet (pronounced “sl-ee-t”) is a noun. It means wet, very slushy snow.

Sleight (pronounced “sly-t”) is a noun. It means skill, strategy, or cunning in a particular area. It’s not often used on its own, but in the phrase “sleight of hand.” Sleight of hand is the skill, trickery, and dexterity demonstrated by magicians and some street performers.

Figuratively speaking, the idiom “sleight of hand” can also mean being a tricky or deceitful person, or using emotional trickery or cleverness in dealing with others. This phrase is mentioned in U2’s 1987 song, “With or Without You,” a ballad about a tumultuous, on-again, off-again relationship. This song was used in the US TV series’ Friends for characters Ross and Rachel.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Sly thought he was a slick driver, practicing something like sleight of hand behind the wheel. He could dodge cars and trucks and never got a scratch on his Mitsubishi. Even though the sleet was coming down hard, he thought he could deliver pizza in the nearby hills without a problem. And he made it. They all got delivered in record time.

Unfortunately when he got back to the shop, his boss was pale-faced. “Sly, I can’t let you drive recklessly to get pizzas delivered. Too many calls come in saying you almost caused an accident in your wake.”

This was about the time that Sly discovered street racing.

This post relates to another post:

Easily Confused Words: Slide vs. Sleight 

Easily Confused Words: Slight vs. Sleight

 

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