Easily Confused Words: Phish v. Phishing

Phish and phishing 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.

Phish (pronounced “fish”) is a proper noun, so it is written with its first letter capitalized. This is the name of a jam band founded at the University of Vermont in 1983. I guess you would categorize them in rock, but there’s a lot of multi-genre influences in their work. Clicking the link takes you to the band’s official website.

Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) is a verb. It means an online tactic used by hackers. An email with a malicious link is sent to an unsuspecting user, aka victim. The email indicates to click the link to change a password, or call a special number about a bank or credit card problem, or open an attached file that likely contains malicious content. If the victim takes this “bait,” they react as the hacker wanted and the hacker gets more information about the person or their accounts. This enables them to do serious financial damage to the victim.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Frances was rocking out to Phish’s “Bouncing Around the Room” and checking her email. Suddenly, her partner, Felicity, burst into the room. “If you got that email about a Fedex package and an attached zip file to open, don’t open that file. It looks like a phishing attempt!” 

“Oh. Thanks for the heads up.” 

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