Easily Confused Words: Paleta vs. Patella

Paleta and patella 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.

Paleta (pronounced “puh-leh-tuh”) is a Spanish word. It literally means “little stick.” But in the food world, it means a popsicle from Mexico. It’s known for its “arched doorway” or “paddle” shape.

Paletas are traditionally made from fruit, nuts, spices, and vegetable flavors. In Mexico, a store that sells paletas is a paletéria, a cart that sells paletas is a palatero. You can find some paletas recipes here.

Patella (pronounced “puh-tell-uh”) is a Latin word. It’s also an anatomy word. It means the bone found at the knee that covers tendons and nerves that run between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) and fibula (smaller side shin bone.) The patella gives the knee its rounded, knobby shape. More importantly, it gives greater range of motion.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Pallaton was playing an informal game of soccer in his yard when he fell hard on his knee. He couldn’t get up. A couple of friends carried him back into his house. They couldn’t find ice in the freezer to help ease the pain. A pineapple paleta in a plastic bag had to suffice in the interim.

That night at the doctor, an x-ray revealed he had fractured his patella. It looks like his playing days were over for at least a few months.


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