Easily Confused Words: Aye-Aye vs. Eye

Aye-Aye and Eye 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.

Aye-Aye (pronounced”I-I” or “eye-eye”; rhymes with my my) is a type of lemur that lives on Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of African continent. The animated film Madagascar made ring-tailed lemurs (like King Julien) famous, but there are actually 32 more species of lemurs.

The aye-aye is nocturnal. It’s known for its long spindly fingers that tap on trees. If the aye-aye hears hollowness, it knows bugs are hiding behind the bark and they bore into trees to feast on them. It also has 4 large front teeth–2 on top, 2 on bottom, like a rodent. Check out this video of their feeding technique.

So, what about “Aye aye, Captain (pronounced “eye eye kapp-tuhn”?). This has nothing to do with the animal. This is a nautical phrase indicating agreement with orders from the leader of a ship. This sounds a lot like a Scottish word use for “yes” or “affirmative” = “Aye.” The Royal Scots Navy dates back to the Middle Ages and was merged with the English Royal Navy in the early 1700s. The likelihood that this word carried over from nations with a long seafaring tradition like Scotland’s. “Aye” is also used in government voting for bills. Representatives and Senators typically vote “Aye or No (Yes or No.)” When most votes are affirmative for the new bill or procedure, the phrase is “the Ayes have it.”

Eye (pronounced just like capital “I”; rhymes with spy, my, lie, fly) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means the part of the body used for vision. Its also used in communication. Making contact with the other person’s eyes, typically shows confidence and builds trust.
  • As a verb, it means to look at something intently or with desire.

The following story uses both words, Aye-Aye and Eye, correctly:

Eileen was taking a nighttime nature hike through Masoala National Park with a flashlight. She heard many mysterious and intriguing sounds. She eyed the glowing circles in the distance and thought it was an owl, but it was actually a curious aye-aye. 

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Eyed vs. Eid, Easily Confused Words: Eyed vs. I’d

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