Easily Confused Words: Inflation vs. Conflation

Inflation and conflation 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.

Inflation (pronounced “ehn-flay-shun”) is a noun. It means to fill an object, like a balloon, with a gas, i.e., carbon dioxide, helium, or another gas.

It also has figurative usage. In economics, it refers to the value of a dollar or other currency decreasing. Prices of everything tend to rise as a result to compensate for the shift in dollar value.

Conflation (pronounced “kawn-flay-shun”) is a noun. It means to blend or fuse, to form a composite.

In modern US news media (1990s-present), partisan journalism regularly conflates unrelated events and uses some fuzzy logic to tie the two together. Perhaps it presents information side by side that has no correlation, yet the viewer is bound to decide they were connected. This may be based on how the information was presented, or what information was presented and in what order it was presented.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Enfys was reading online about what was causing recent inflation in her country. When one opinion piece mentioned that the number of stray black cats started appearing in suburban neighborhoods, she rolled her eyes and said, “Superstition and conflation, that’s all the news is anymore.”  She slid the tray out of her canary’s cage, placed the newspaper in it, then slid the tray back in.

Then she headed down to the pub to find out what was really going on.


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