Easily Confused Words: Phlegmy vs. Flemish

Phlegmy and Flemish 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.

Phlegmy (pronounced “flemmy”) is an adjective. It describes mucus, the yellow-green goo in our noses and other parts of the human bodies. It can also be used to describe things with a thick, sticky consistency like mucus.

Flemish (pronounced “fl-ehmm-ish”) is a proper noun. It means of or relating to Belgium before it was known as Belgium. Prior to its modern name, Belgium was known as Flanders, and it has Dutch speaking regions and French speaking regions that date back centuries. Read more about Belgium’s history here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Femke had hoped to enjoy the outdoor music and Flemish culture festival, but spring’s blooms were making it nearly impossible. She couldn’t stop sneezing. Her sinuses were clogged, and her throat felt phlegmy with post nasal drip. She headed for some honey tea, then home to get some decongestants. What a bummer.


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