Easily Confused Words: Whopping vs. Whooping

Whopping and whooping 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.

Whopping (pronounced “wah-pihng”) is an adjective. It is used to modify astonishingly high dollar amounts.

Whooping (pronounced “woo-pihng”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to make a loud cry.
  • As an adjective, it describes things making a cry. Two notable examples? The whooping crane, a large shorebird that makes this noise, and whooping cough, a respiratory infection whose symptoms include an unmistakable cough.
  • As a verb, in slang, it can mean a beatdown or a serious beating. This slang version is pronounced “wuh-ping,” but is spelled the same)

The following story uses both words correctly:

Last month, Whitaker took his baby daughter to the hospital for her fever. It turned out she had whooping cough. The doctors were able to help, thankfully, and she was feeling much better days later.

The bill for the visit came in the mail today. Whitaker opened it. What?! They wanted a whopping $1500 for a brief visit. It was going to be really difficult to pay down this bill and afford Christmas.

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