Tot and taught are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.
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.
Tot (pronounced “tawt”; rhymes with pot, hot, cot) is a noun.
- As a noun, it means anything small in size.
- For instance, tater tots are an appetizer item make of shredded potato. These shredded pieces are rolled into a ball or cylinder shape. They are battered, breaded and fried in oil.
- As a noun, it is slang for a small child. For example, in the Christmas Song, one lyric says: “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight, they know that Santa’s on his way.” [Click the link to hear the famous version of this song, released by Nat King Cole and a back up orchestra in 1961. Cole previously released the song in 1946.]
Taught (pronounced “tawwt”; rhymes with caught, naught, fought) is a verb, it is the past tense of teach, which is to instruct others on how to do something, or several things. So taught indicates teaching took place in the past. For example, superintendents usually have past experience where they taught children in the past, or served as a principal.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Tatiana taught older students in middle and high school for years, but their attitudes were taxing and tiresome. She decided to retrain in early childhood education, with an emphasis on autistic children and special education.
Sure enough, she found working with one child at a time, tailoring their experience, was much more rewarding experience. Her students were “Tatiana’s Tots,” by the time they were 5, they were more than ready for kindergarten.