Easily Confused Words: Artifice vs. Artificial

Artifice and artificial 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.

Artifice (pronounced “arr-tih-fuhs”) is a noun. It means a display of trickery or strategy. It can also mean showing cleverness or skill, or putting on an act of feeling a certain way, when the person’s actual feelings may be very different.  For example, actors, lawyers, and politicians have to become masters of artifice to play characters, represent clients, or interact with audiences he/she wants to appeal to, in order to succeed at their respective jobs. Not surprisingly, the US has had actors and lawyers eventually get into politics.

Artificial (pronounced “arr-tih-fish-ull”) means synthetic or manmade, not natural. For example, processed, prepackaged food is often criticized for its overuse of artificial sweeteners and colors.

It’s also used synonymously with “fake.” The phrase “artificially enhanced” implies special effects, drugs, plastic surgery, or other means were used to improve something or someone’s appearance or performance.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Arthur missed wearing flannel shirts and drinking PBR in his garage; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d done either. 

Arthur pursued the governorship because he wanted to help advance the state where he grew up. He also wanted to be himself on the campaign trail and in office. Very quickly, though, he learned that he couldn’t do either completely on his terms. His speechwriter wrote lovely speeches, but the wording sometimes felt artificial, not blunt, not forthright, and totally honest. His consultants had worked hard to present a glossy artifice version of Arthur that the public would find the most palatable and therefore likable. Clearly their efforts had succeeded. Now they were busy working on his agenda and looking ahead to a re-election campaign. Arthur didn’t know if he wanted to do it.

Easily Confused Words: Chicano vs. Chicago

Chicano and Chicago 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.

Chicano (pronounced “chee-kawn-oh”) is a proper noun. It means a Mexican-American male; Chicana (“chee-con-ah”) is the female version of the word. This term came into prominence in the 1960s during the Mexican Civil Rights movement headed by Cesar Chavez. [Click the Chavez link to learn more. There’s also a list of Chicano literature here. List of famous people here.]

Chicago (pronounced “shih-kawg-oh”) is a proper noun. It means the most populous city in the state of Illinois. It’s metro area has a population of approximately 10 million, making it the third largest one in the US behind New York and Los Angeles.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Chihiro had only one week off from work. She planned to spend it taking in some culture in Chicago. She was trying to plan her itinerary. She asked her smartphone assistant app, “Does Chicago have a Chicano Art Museum?” The phone responded, “Yes. It is at 1852 W 19th St. They are open 10am-5pm daily.” 

Easily Confused Words: Coupler vs. Cupola

Cupola and coupler 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.

Cupola (pronounced “koo-puh-lah”) is a noun; it’s Italian in origin. It means small dome or square structure on a roof that’s designed as a lookout, or to allow air or light in, or for a combination of purposes. [Turrets were discussed in another post. While turrets are often located at the corners of castles or buildings, cupolas can appear anywhere on top of a building. A turret could be topped with a cupola.]

Coupler (pronounced “cup-plerr”) is a noun. It means a device that enables two components to come together or work in unison. It may be a rod that enables two components to move together. A PVC coupler allows two pipes to join into it. In electronics, a coupler can also be a transformer that connects circuits.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Cuyler was struggling to decorate the museum’s elaborate Christmas light show. He had roped lights around the building and the curves of the crowning cupola. Unfortunately, when he hit the switch to test his work, it failed. It turned out several couplers weren’t working right, so the lights weren’t performing as desired.

Easily Confused Words: Fraud vs. Fraught

Fraud and fraught 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.

Fraud (pronounced “frawed”) is a noun. It means to accept money in exchange for a non-existent product, or service, or problem. For example, insurance fraud might involve someone claiming personal injury or property damage in order to get cash from their insurer; often the damage/injury didn’t occur at all. Medicare fraud might involve accepting payment for patient care that did not occur, or filing multiple claims for the same healthcare work. In many situations, fraud is a crime in the US. The consequences can involve jail time, fines, loss of professional licenses, and having this felony permanently listed on one’s record.

Fraught (pronounced “frawt”) is an adjective. It describes situations that are full of problems, flaws, or other faults. For example, a criminal case fraught with inconsistencies, or a toy design fraught with safety concerns.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Frisa was doing her best to represent a new client, a doctor who was accused of Medicare fraud. Unfortunately, her administrative staff hadn’t been very well organized. Multiple firings and hirings had been made within that department over the course of three years. This likely led to inconsistent accounting that was fraught with problems and duplicate entries. 

Frisa certainly had her work cut out for her with this one! 

Easily Confused Words: Matte vs. Matted

Matte and matted 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.

Matte (pronounced “meht”) is an adjective. It describes a surface that is colorful, but not shiny or glossy. For photos and artwork, it describes a dull finish as opposed to a shiny, smooth one.

Matted (pronounced “meh-tehd”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a past tense verb, it indicates hair, fur, or hairlike surfaces (like carpet) that has become a knotty, piled mess.
  • As an adjective, it describes any hair or fur that is tangled and messy.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Matilda was having a hectic morning. She was so busy dealing with her daughter’s matted hair before preschool, she had no time for her own usual routine. No curling iron today. All she could do was put her hair in a ponytail and apply some rosy matte lipstick.

Easily Confused Words: Isle vs. Aisle

Isle and aisle 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.

Isle (pronounced “eye-uhl”) is a noun. It means an island, a piece of land surrounded by water and not connected to larger masses of land. Isle is typically used to refer to very small islands.

Aisle (pronounced “eye-uhl”) is a noun. It means the walking path between sets of rows of shelving or seating. For example, on commercial aircraft, in churches, and in movie theaters, it is the walkway where staff walk to serve food or escort guests to their seats. In a warehouse store, aisles allow shoppers to walk around, view products, and choose which ones to buy.

In US news, anchors describe occasional politicians as a person who will “reach across the aisle.” This means someone, for example a Republican, who is willing to work and reach a compromise with Democrat representatives, and the reverse also applies: a Democrat willing to work with Republicans.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Iselle was eager to get away from it all. She booked a two week vacation, going camping on a remote tropic isle. Once the helicopter dropped her off, there were no other people in sight. Life was completely unplugged there. 

By week two, she was missing some of the comforts of home. Like walking the aisles of a grocery as opposed to catching fish and picking fruit for every meal. It was great to catch up on journaling and writing, but she also missed talking to people.

Easily Confused Words: Portend vs. Pretend

Portend and pretend 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.

Portend is a verb.  It means to act as an indicator of future events, to signify, or to hint at.

Pretend is a verb.

  • It can mean to imagine new identities and scenarios and act them out. This is a typical behavior for small children.
  • It can also mean when one acts as if events have happened or are happening differently than they actually have. For example, to pretend someone isn’t in the room, or to pretend not to hear a request.
  • It can also mean acting or seeming inauthentic in encounters with people.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Peyton was concerned about her relationship. Did Peter’s tendency to tune her out, to pretend she wasn’t talking, portend a loss of interest in what she had to say, or something more than that?