Easily Confused Words: Paparazzi vs. Propaganda

Paparazzi and propaganda 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.

Paparazzi (“papah-rah-zee”) is a noun. It means the pushy, intrusive, persistent photographers covering celebrities. If one captures something embarrassing, exploitable, or highly exclusive, they can expect high payment by gossip websites and publications. It was named for a photographer character in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita.

Propaganda (“praw-pah-gan-duh”) is a noun. It means news produced by a government or organization that always has a superlative, assertive, or praiseworthy tone to it. Propaganda’s goal is to tell the masses that they (government) are in control, that’s a good thing, and the government asks that ordinary people be a good citizen and do as you’re told, report suspicious activity.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Pepita had worked as a news photographer for 25 years. Some critics called her a member of the paparazzi, but this wasn’t a fair or accurate label. Her subjects were people making news. She wasn’t stalking high profile people, and attempting to create news from nothing.

When she learned recent political propaganda was using her images without permission, she called her lawyer. 


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