Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Hoodoo vs. Whodunit

Hoodoo and whodunit 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.

Hoodoo (pronounced “hoo-doo”/”hew-dew”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it can mean someone possessed with voodoo or supernatural powers.
  • In geology, it means a rock formation that resembles a tower or spire of rock. Hoodoos are evidence of extreme erosion.
  • In the continental US, you can see hoodoos in these places:
    • Bryce Canyon in Utah
    • Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
    • Badlands National Park, South Dakota
    • Little Missouri Badlands: Theodore Roosevelt National Park & Surroundings, North Dakota
    • Hell’s Half Acre: Wind River Basin, Wyoming
    • Adobe Town and the Honeycomb Buttes: Red Desert, Wyoming
  • Outside the US:
    • Drumheller Valley, Alberta, Canada
    • Devil’s Town (Davolja Varos), Serbia, Europe
    • Cavusin, Cappadocia, Turkey, Asia
    • Awa Sand Pillars, Tokushima prefecture, Japan
    • Alpes de Haute-Provence, Provence, France, Europe
    • Wanli, Taiwan, Asia

Whodunit (pronounced “who-duhn-iht”) is a noun. It is a slang, run-together word made from the phrase “who did it?” or the grammatically incorrect “who done it?” It is a catchphrase for detective and mystery novels. Usually the plot involves a murder or series of murders, and the quest to find the killer. This type of story has translated well to movies and television.

In the UK, it’s “whodunnit” with two n’s.

The following story uses both words correctly:

While staring at a sunset over the hoodoos in Utah, Hoover realized something. He wanted to write whodunnit novel. As a park ranger, he was an unlikely source for stories about detective work in the big city. But it was just something he felt he had to do.

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Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Derecho vs. Direction

Derecho and direction 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.

Derecho (pronounced “duh-ray-cho”/”deh-ray-cho”) is a noun.

  • It is a Spanish word meaning the direction of “straight.” The feminine form, “derecha” means “right” [The opposite, “left,” is izquierda (pronounced “ihz-key-air-duh”)
  • In meteorology, it means a strong thunderstorm system spanning 240 miles or above. Derechos feature strong winds, thunder, lightning, and hard rains. For the people in their path, they can feel like an inland hurricane. On the radar map, they tend to span a straight line or band, hence the name. Here is a video about derechos.

Direction (pronounced “duhr-ck-shun”; rhymes with reflection, interjection, perfection, insurrection)

  • As a noun, it can mean a cardinal direction used for travel, whether by foot, by vehicle, etc. North, South, East and West are cardinal directions. It is also used to describe the movements of weather systems and patterns, escaped convicts, etc.
    • If you have a GPS system, a satellite is guiding you in a north, east, south, or west direction depending on what destination you chose and where that is relative to your starting point.
  • As a noun, it can mean purpose, vision or a goal, and the motivation to achieve that purpose, vision, or goal.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Deidre was driving in a northerly direction when she noticed the sky growing very dark. Unbeknowst to her, a derecho was rolling in from the southwest, and would be wreaking havoc in a matter of hours. Her trip demanded 5 more hours on the road, there was no chance she would outrun the storm. So she stopped and got a hotel for the night, and waited for it to blow over.

At the hotel’s dining space, she met Dael, a storm chaser. They only talked for about five minutes before they had to leave, but they exchanged email addresses.

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Pueblo vs. Poblano

Pueblo and poblano 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.

Pueblo (pronounced “pwhey-bloh”) has multiple meanings. It is a Spanish word, meaning “town.”

  • It can mean indigenous tribes of the US Southwest that live in multi-storied adobe houses surrounding a plaza. Buildings were entered via a ladder that was lowered by an occupant. Adobe houses are made with stone, logs, and clay bricks. Tribes that traditionally lived in these structures include Hopi and Zuni; other tribes are listed here.
  • It can mean a city in the state of Colorado, founded in 1885.
  • The feminine version, “Puebla,” is the name of a state in southern Mexico. It famously defeated the French on May 5, 1862. This event is celebrated with Cinco de Mayo festivities.

Poblano (pronounced “poh-blahno”) is a noun. It means a large, dark green skinned pepper. It is hot, but not as hot as a jalapeño. Peppers’ heat is measured in Scoville units. A poblano has about 1000-2000 units, while a Carolina Reaper is at 3.18 million units.

  • Chiles rellenos, a dish of cheese-stuffed fried peppers, is made with poblanos.
  • The dried version of the poblano is the ancho.

The following story uses both words correctly:

After she was widowed and all her children had left home, Prudence decided to do something completely different in her life. She had a pueblo-style home built in rural New Mexico. She started growing peppers on the surrounding land. She would grow poblanos, scotch bonnets, jalapeños, and serranos all over the property.

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Jibe vs. Jive

Jibe and jive 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.

Jibe (pronounced “j-eyeb”; rhymes with vibe, imbibe, tribe) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it can mean to move back and forth, like a sail and its boom on a sailboat when heading into wind. Jibe also applies to other sports that depend on navigating in the wind, like windsurfing and kitesurfing (aka kiteboarding).
  • As a noun, it can mean the act of sailing in this back and forth pattern, or the act of moving to adjust to wind or other circumstances.
  • As a verb, it can mean two things moving in synchronization, in harmony, to match or align perfectly. This meaning is often used in the negative context:
    • “That doesn’t jibe with me.”
    • “What my boss said was needed doesn’t jibe with what the project requires.”

Jive (pronounced “j-eyev”; rhymes with hive, live, knives) has multiple meanings.

  • It can mean swing music or early jazz, very popular in the US from the 1930s-1950s.
  • It can mean dancing done to this type of music. Here are some examples from pop culture:
  • It can mean the slang associated with jazz that evolved among the African American musicians in Harlem, NYC and Chicago, IL in the 1940s. Like younger people making hip hop references in the 1990s-2010s, speaking jive was a way to sound cool 70-80 years prior.
    • There’s a glossary of jive here.
    • In the screwball comedy Airplane! (1980), Barbara Billingsley (the mom from the 1950s sitcom Leave It To Beaver) claims she can speak jive.
  • It can mean leading someone on, deceiving them, or talking nonsense.
    • For example, “don’t give me any of that jive, young man”
    • In pop culture, “Jive Talkin’” was a 1970s song by Australian band the BeeGees. Here are some of the lyrics: It’s just your jive talkin’, You’re telling me lies, yeah, Jive talkin’, You wear a disguise”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Job was part of a jazz band, playing jive hits from the 1930s-1950s. The band enjoyed themselves when playing, but the marketplace for this music was disappearing. Eventually some bandmates got together and decided they would start playing later styles of music in order to get more gigs. When they shared the decision with Job, they were surprised that he wasn’t more enthusiastic.

Job said, “I need the money and our busy season is coming up, so I will keep playing for a few more months. But ultimately this decision doesn’t jibe with me, guys. “

Jonah, the bassist and lead singer, asked, “So what does that mean, Job?”

I think I’ll be leaving the band.”

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Goulash vs. Galoshes

Goulash and galoshes 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.

Goulash (pronounced “goo-lawsh”) is a noun. It is an ethnic food word. Goulash comes from Hungary, which is the Eastern portion of Europe. It is a thick stew (a soup with meat and vegetables in it) featuring paprika and other spices. Here is a video of it being cooked.

Galoshes (pronounced “”guh-lawsh-uhz”) is the plural form of noun “galosh.” Galoshes means a pair of rubber boots worn on rainy and snowy days. Today they are also called rain boots.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Galice was being a stubborn eater. It was surprising that she cleaned a small bowl of goulash that her father, Gaston, had prepared for her. Finally! She might be turning a corner here. “I am so proud of you!” he said as he took her plate. Galice hadn’t actually eaten her food, she had found another way to eliminate the evidence.

A sitter arrived. Gaston went to put on some rain gear to run errands. Something felt horribly wrong when he put his foot in one of his galoshes. It was mushy. He pulled his foot out. His sock was covered in goulash. Merde.

“Galice! Why is your food in my galosh?! We will talk more about this later. He asked the sitter to make a grilled cheese. He pulled on a rain jacket and headed out the door.

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Fortnight vs. Fortnite

Fortnight and Fortnite 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.

Fortnight (pronounced “fohrt-neyet”; somewhat rhymes with shortsighted) is a noun. It means a two week period of 14 days. It is used more in the UK than the US.

Fortnite (pronounced “fohrt-neyet”) is a proper noun. It is the name of a very popular web-based video game introduced in 2017.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Fortinbras was so addicted to the new game Fortnite he couldn’t stop playing it. Nothing else mattered. When his sister stopped to check in and ask how he was doing. He wasn’t returning her calls.

“Hi Fort, it’s your sister Felicity. Are you home?”

“Yes, just gaming. I can open the door.”

Once he opened the door, a waft of odor came out.

“Oh, god. When did you shower last, Fort? Our parents haven’t heard from you in a fortnight. Have you been playing this whole time?!”

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Garbage vs. Garage

Garbage and garage 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.

Garbage (pronounced “garr-bihj”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means waste or trash collected in a bin and wheeled to the curb for collection once a week.
  • As a noun, it means the bin that discarded items are collected in.
  • As an adjective, it describes something unneeded, or of little value.

Garage (pronounced US:”guh-rahj” rhymes with “barrage”/UK: “gare-ihj”; rhymes with “carriage”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means an enclosed room with a raising door designed for storing an automobile or other vehicle. In some American homes, some garages become storage areas, workshops, or are converted into a sitting room.
  • As an adjective, as in the phrase “garage rock,” a style of rock music known for prominent use of raucous electric guitars. It was a precursor to punk. It rose to prominence in the West in the mid-1960s, and had a resurgence in the 2000s. At this link, Paste Magazine lists the 50 best garage rock songs. The Kinks, the Troggs, the Strokes, and the White Stripes are just a few examples of bands making music in this style.
  • As a proper noun, Garage Band is a music software application on MacIntosh computers.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Twins Gary and Gabby really annoyed their parents’ neighbors when they started a garage rock band called the Gargoyles. A familiar refrain became, “Can you tell the kids to turn that garbage down?” But they weren’t deterred, and a few friends joined the project.

Even after putting sound proofing inside the walls, people could hear the band practice and didn’t like it, so they ended up moving to their school or playing at the park for tips. They quickly got an offer to play at the local fair. Their sound wasn’t as annoying as the neighbors had indicated. It was actually pretty catchy to a lot of people.