Wanton and wonton 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.
Wanton (pronounced “wahn-tuhn”) is an adjective. It describes behavior that follows negative or baser instincts, like rage, lust, envy, or revenge. It can also describe behavior that demonstrates lack of self-control, malice, or unprovoked violence.
Wonton (pronounced “wawn-tawn”) has multiple meanings.
- As a noun, it means a Chinese food item. They are a noodle-like wrapper enfolding diced pork, vegetables, and spices. They can be served in soup, or pan fried and served with dipping sauce.
- As an adjective, it describes ingredients including wontons, or used to make wonton dishes. For example, wonton wrappers are made from wheat flour, water, egg, and salt. Wonton soup is a soup with wontons floating in it.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Wonita stumbled into cooking class late for the fifth time in two weeks. The instructor had had enough and repimanded her in front of the class:
“Wonita, you’ll never learn to master Chinese cookery, like making wontons, if you don’t abandon your wanton ways. You have to get up early to be a chef. There’s too much work too do to arrive late. You can’t party hard into the wee hours and stumble into work the next day.”