Easily Confused Words: Arcane vs. Arcade

Arcane and arcade 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.

Arcane (pronounced “arr-kayn;” rhymes with disdain, explain, insane) is an adjective. It describes something old and out of date, something that’s obsolete.

Arcade (pronounced “arr-kayd;” rhymes with dismayed) is a noun.

  • In architecture, it means a series of adjoining arches. There’s a list of these here.
    • In historic cities of the US, arcades were a hallway of stores & offices, a new trend in urban planning that flourished from 1890s-1930s. Here are some of the cities that have historic arcades:
    • In the 1970-90s, this could mean a room or hall of coin or token operated video game consoles. Pinball machines and merchandisers (one of many items encased in glass can be “grabbed” by robotically controlled arms within a short timeframe) also fit in this machine category. Sometimes these spaces are called penny arcades.

The following story uses both words correctly:

For Arkin, relating and using analogies was an easy way to relate to students as a young teacher. Twenty years into the job, though, this “relating” was getting harder. Students were finding his references to arcade video games and other 1980s culture to be arcane. They also seemed more indifferent to school than he recalled being at that age. It was time for new strategies to make the material engaging.

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