Easily Confused Words: Better vs. Beta

Better and beta 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.

Better (pronounced “beh-tuhr”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it can mean to improve a situation or condition.
  • As an comparative adjective that is superior to “good,” as in “good, better, best.” To learn more about comparative and superlative adjectives, click here.
  • As a noun, it can mean one’s superiors or authority figures.
  • As an adverb, it adds intensity to a demand for action: “you better do your homework!” “If you don’t behave better, you will be grounded!”
  • As an adverb, it indicates superiority in a skill, talent, or ability. “She’s better at math, he’s better at English.”

Beta (pronounced “bay-tuh”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means the second letter of the Greek alphabet.
  • As a noun, in computer science, it refers to the latest phase of software launch that still has a few kinks to work out.
  • As a noun, in investments, the beta is an indicator of volatility of a security or set of securities. You can learn more about that here.
  • As an adjective, in sciences like astronomy, chemistry, physics, “beta” is used to label secondary things. For example, the second brightest star in a constellation is called “beta <<constellation name>>.”
  • As a proper noun, in the 1980s, it was nickname for the videotape format BetaMax. Ultimately BetaMax lost out to the VHS format.
  • As a proper noun, it’s the name of an Amazon web series about a team of software developers.
  • As a proper noun, “Beta Club” is a US academic honor society for children below high school age. Generally speaking, these students are about 9-13 years old.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Beto was the younger brother of Alphonse. He always felt like a “beta brother”: he wasn’t just the second born, he literally felt second best in schoolwork, and soccer, seemingly everything. 

Then one day his parents brought home a piano. They felt Alphonse needed to be more well-rounded to improve his college prospects. Alphonse didn’t like to play it, but did out of obedience. Beto sat down and played a simple arrangement easily. Finally! He was better at something than Alphonse. It was exhilarating. 

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Easily Confused Words: Wattle vs. Waddle

Wattle and waddle are easily confused words. They are homophones, meaning they sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things.

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.

Wattle (pronounced “wah-tuhl”) is a noun.

  • It can means the loose skin area under the beak of a turkey or chicken.
    • It has also come to mean the flabby or saggy neck area on humans under the chin and leading into the neck.
  • It can mean a set of natural wood or bamboo rods or stakes used for weaving thatched roofs or fences.

Waddle (pronounced “wah-duhl”) is a verb. It means walking like a duck does.  With a long, plump body and feet designed for swimming, ducks have a distinctive gait. One exception is the Indian Runner duck, which stands very erect (like a penguin), and runs instead of waddling.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Watson was destined to be an ornithologist.

In an interview with his parents, they noticed this affinity early. Young Watson liked to waddle behind the ducks on the pond. He was very good at bird calls. He was fascinated by the design of birds bodies, like turkey’s wattles, and their relationship to the calls they made. 

Easily Confused Words: Anxious vs. Unctuous

Anxious and unctuous 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.

Anxious (pronounced “ank-shuss”) is an adjective. It means a feeling of nervousness or dread in anticipation of coming circumstances, or in response to circumstances. For example, many people feel anxious before speaking in front of a crowd.

Unctuous (pronounced “uhnck-tyoo-uhs”) is an adjective.

  • For people, it describes someone with a phony demeanor of self-righteousness, religious superiority, moral superiority, or smugness. It’s similar to another word, sychophantic, which is related to sycophant.
  • For a thing, it describes something oily or greasy in texture. It can also describe something plastic.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Umbard was anxious about his first day on the job. He was going to be the new spokesman for Anville d’Faucille, a prominent faith leader in their country. He had a tremendous following and many donors for his causes. His detractors found him unctuous and overbearing.

After several years working together, Umbard would notice some things that proved the detractors had a point. On second thought, make that several points.

Easily Confused Words: Braggot vs. Braggart

Braggot and braggart 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.

Braggot (pronounced “bragg-awt”) is a noun. It means a type of beer that uses honey and barley malt. A similar beverage made of honey, water, and sometimes yeast is called mead. Mead is the oldest fermented beverage known to mankind.

Braggart (pronounced “”bragg-uhrt”) is an adjective. It describes someone who is always talking about their qualities, their achievements, and all they have going on. Someone who is constantly boastful.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Badgley had been looking forward to talking to the esteemed author and political commentator Padgett Prince all week long. They had agreed to meet at Braggots n’ Brats biergarten on Friday afternoon.

Unfortunately when Badgley arrived, Padgett was already several braggots ahead of him, and he was quite the obnoxious braggart when buzzed. Talking about how lucky his current coworkers were to share the anchor desk with him, and talking trash about well-known ex-lovers. Badgley didn’t get much content he could use at all. After half an hour, he asked to reschedule at a coffeehouse the following week, and called Padgett a cab. This had been so awkward, and disheartening. He called his editor.

“I got nothing, Mavis! Nothing! And he’s a total prick.”

“Tough break. This is why they say never meet your heroes, kid. You’ve got an extension on the story.”

 

 

Easily Confused Words: Tapir vs. Taper

Tapir and taper 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.

Tapir (pronounced “tuh-peer,” or “tay-per”) is a noun. It means a herbivorous (aka “plant-eating”) mammal that lives in Central America, South America, and Malaysia. Tapir’s most distinctive feature is its fleshy proboscis (long nose) that functions like a mini-trunk. Tapirs are cousins of the horse and the rhinoceros. You can learn more about tapirs here.

Taper (pronounced “tay-purr”; rhymes with paper and caper) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to shorten over time until receding to an endpoint. For example, Christmas trees branches are wide at the bottom, but then get smaller and narrower, “tapering,” the higher up on the tree you look.
    • It can also means to decrease gradually, or get phased out.
    • It can also mean to lose intensity or energy.
  • As a noun, it can also mean a candle.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Tapley had a lot of adventures planned during her cruise to Costa Rica. She was so excited that she would finally to see rainforest birds, monkeys, colorful frogs, and tapirs up close. Unfortunately, she got sick on her trip; her vacation funds tapered out really fast. She returned home without achieving much of her to-do list. It would be months before she could afford to travel again. 

 

 

Easily Confused Words: Rapt vs. Wrapped

Rapt and wrapped 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.

Rapt (pronounced “rappt”; rhymes with apt) is an adjective. It describes something highly focused or fully engaged. For example, rapt attention, rapt energy.

Wrapped (pronounced “rappt”; rhymes with lapped, capped, sapped) is the past tense of the verb “wrap.” To wrap is to fold an object in paper, fabric, or other material. Gifts are wrapped, but so are meats and fish at the deli counter.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Raphaela recently hired her nephew, Raffi, to be her personal assistant for a new business venture. It was a favor to her sister, Rowena, and she was also short on cash and couldn’t pay much. 

“Did you get those gifts wrapped for our first three clients, and send those emails I asked for, Raffi?”

“What gifts?”

“You know Raffi, I adore you as your aunt, but I can’t cut you any slack as your boss. If you’re going to work for someone else you have to listen with rapt attention. I shouldn’t have to ask for things twice or three times. Do you understand?”

“What did you say Aunt Raphaela? I was watching a hysterical Youtube video.”

“Raffi, come on! Hand over the smartphone.” He did, begrudgingly.

“You’ll get this back at the end of the day. The gifts are in the corner, the cellophane wrap is in the closet, and the scissors and tape are in your desk.”

 

Easily Confused Words: Epidemic vs. Endemic

Epidemic and endemic 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.

Epidemic (pronounced “ep-ih-dem-ick”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a sudden prevalence of a disease in locations where it doesn’t normally appear. It rapidly spreads from person to person.
  • As an adjective, it describes something widespread, affecting many people at once.

Endemic (pronounced “ihn-dem-ick”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a thing that is characteristic or has a history in a particular place on the globe.
  • As an adjective, it describes something as belonging to an area’s culture, climate, people, etc.
  • As a noun, it can specifically mean a disease found in a geographic area. For example, tropical areas that have certain fevers associated with them.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Enid was fascinated to learn that the Utuvarian flu epidemic in 1900 nearly wiped out a tribe in Peru that she was studying for anthropology class. Prevalent thought of these peoples was that something more recurring and endemic to the area had been the culprit. For example, the animals in their diet being killed by nearby colonists, a series of devastating storms, or loss of forest habitat.