Easily Confused Words: Capers vs. Kapok

Capers and Kapok 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.

Capers (pronounced “kay-puhrs”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a plural noun, it can mean green flower buds that are pickled in brine and served in cocktails and on some foods.
  • As a plural noun, it can mean multiple adventures or exploits.

Kapok (pronounced “kay-pawk”) is a noun. It means a species of tree that grows seed pods with a cottony fiber filling that is used to make things. It has unique triangular buttress roots supporting the base of its trunk.

The following story uses both words correctly:

It was a beautiful day to skip class and sit under the kapok tree in the park. Kappo was listening to an audiobook while eating a bagel with cream cheese, lox, and capers on it.

Easily Confused Words: Tail vs. Tale

Tail and tale are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they are words that sound the same, but they are spelled differently and mean different things. [Homophones are a type of homonym, click the link to learn more.]

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 suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Tale (pronounced “tayl;” rhymes with kale, male, pale) is a noun. It means a story or claim of an event.

Tail (pronounced “tayl;” rhymes with fail, bail, wail) has multiple meanings.

As a noun:

  • It means an appendage at the base of the spine of some animals. Typically a tail is on an animal’s rear.
  • It is used figuratively to mean the bottom or end of something.
  • In the plural form, tails, means the side of a coin not featuring a person’s face.
  • In fashion, it means two pieces of fabric at the back of a tuxedo jacket that descend over the rear and the back of the legs. Typically tails are worn for weddings, musical performances, or big ceremonial events.
    • In Steppin’ Out, Tony Bennett mentions wearing tails; click the link to hear the song.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Talia had asked about Ted’s work, but now she was beginning to regret it. Somehow they got on the topic of his awkward work tales as a veterinarian. He had been late because a child had run over the family cat’s tail with his bicycle.

So far he hadn’t even asked what she did for a living. This was their first date after meeting online app. At this point, she was considering asking for the check.

Ted noticed her face and said, “I’m sorry, you look really bored. What about you, what do you do?”

“I’m a CPA.”

Easily Confused Words: Virgil vs. Vigilante

Virgil and Vigilante 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.

Virgil (pronounced “vuhr-juhl”) is a male first name. It comes from the Latin language and means “staff bearer.” It can also be spelled Vergil.

  • Famous and likely the oldest Virgil is a Greek poet and author of the Aeneid.
  • In fictional works:
    • The name Virgil Kane is a South Carolina whiskey brand.
    • Virgil Tibbs is the protagonist in the 1967 movie In The Heat of the Night. This was later made into a television series in 1988.

Vigilante (pronounced “vihj-uh-lan-tee”) is a noun. It means a person taking law or punishment of someone or something else into his/her own hands.

The following story uses both words correctly:

It was 1890. US Marshal Virgil Beacon was on the trail of a vigilante bank robber known as Belz Baylis. The last known whereabouts of Baylis were outside St. Louis, Missouri. As Beacon left a bar, a stray horse with no rider trotted into town. Beacon had a feeling he just missed his target once again.

Just three hours earlier, Belz got a tip someone was on the lookout. She hopped a train headed west. She let her horse run adrift. The vigilante life wasn’t one she had planned for herself, but she needed to send money home to her mother and daughter.

Easily Confused Words: Enrage vs. Engage

Enrage and engage 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.

Enrage (pronounced “ihn-rayj”) is a verb. It means to stimulate anger or upset in someone else.

Engage (pronounced “ihn-gayj”) is a verb. It can mean to put into use, to attract and hold attention, to allure with one’s personality or charisma, to employ oneself in a task, or to accept an employment position.

  • In automobile and other machines, it can mean to start the machine up for use.
  • In communication, it can mean to start a conversation or dialogue with another person or people.
  • In human relationships, the phrase “he/she got engaged,” it means a person accepted a marriage proposal from someone else.
  • In military campaigns, to engage is to battle with the enemy force.
  • In the UK, some public bathroom stalls have locks that say “engaged” on the outside. This indicates the stall is occupied or in use.
  • In social media, engaging means accounts interacting with one another.
  • In advertising and marketing, the related noun “engagement” means how much a consumer did or didn’t pay attention to interacted with a product website. On sites like Amazon, keeping a customer interested longer usually means they buy more stuff. They suggest related items to what you’re looking for.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Engelbert became enraged when his car refused to engage. It was the morning before his big interview, and nothing was going well. Then it started raining.

Easily Confused Words: Prophylactic vs. Anaphylactic

Prophylactic and Anaphylactic 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.

Prophylactic (pronounced “pro-fuh-lack-tihck”) has multiple meanings.

As an adjective: It is a medicine/pharmaceutical word. It describes the role of a drug or device as preventing disease spreading between people.

For example, condoms are a prophylactic device originally intended to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted (aka venereal) diseases and pregnancy. Modern condoms are made of latex or similar materials. They are flexible, but not indestructible. They can rupture or have holes poked in them. A condom with a hole in it, or that has been removed during sexual activity, has lost all its intended effectiveness.

An example of a prophylactic drugs are the antibiotics a person takes before getting dental surgery.

As a noun, it means a preventive drug or device.

Anaphylactic (pronounced “anna-fuh-lack-tihck”) is an adjective. It is a physiology word. It describes things related to anaphylaxis, which is an extreme allergic response in the body to a foreign protein. Anaphylaxis can lead to death.

For example, some people are allergic to bee stings. If he/she is stung by a bee, it’s not a brief discomfort and a small skin sore. Instead, their body experiences anaphylactic response. His/her body’s histamine overreacts, causing swelling all over, chest tightening, lightheadedness. His/her throat closes and restricts breathing. Usually it takes a dose of epinephrine (like an epi-pen shot) to stop an anaphylactic response.

The following story uses both words correctly:

The allergist returned with Phet’s file.

Well we’ve run the tests Ms. Peterson. Phet is allergic to peanuts. Peanut foods and peanut oils are all not recommended in his diet and need to avoided at all costs.”

But, but they’re in all kinds of food, American and Thai. Isn’t there a prophylactic prescription that would prevent any reactions?

No ma’am. I am afraid you and he have to be vigilant about his diet. I am giving you a prescription for an epinephrine pen as a last resort should he eat accidentally anything with peanuts. It will stop anaphylactic shock.

Phet would have a frustrating childhood because he couldn’t eat everything his friends did. He would sing songs at school or summer camp about peanut butter, but he couldn’t eat it. Not being able to eat ordinary kid food left him feeling more than a little left out.

An unforgettable night came unexpectedly when the family went out to dinner. They asked for peanut-free dishes. Their server consulted the kitchen and made the best suggestions they could. When it was time for dinner to arrive, everyone else got their food but Phet.

Then the chef came out and set the plate before Phet. He smiled at Phet’s wide-eyed face and said, “I made this just for you, so I hope you like it.” It was a dish of rice noodles and vegetables chopped to look like flowers.

For once, Phet didn’t feel embarrassed about his situation. he felt special. He looked up into the chef’s smiling face and said, “Thank you!”

“Thank you so much!” said Ms. Peterson. “That looks delicious, Phet.”

It was. Phet realized he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to make people happy with food.

Easily Confused Words: Sean vs. Seen

Sean and seen 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.

Sean (pronounced “shh-awn;” rhymes with brawn, dawn) is a male first name. It is related to John. This spelling is more Celtic than “Shawn.”

Some famous Seans include American actor Sean Astin, English musician Sean Lennon, English actor Sean Bean, Scottish actor Sean Connery. Here is a list of other Seans.

Seen (pronounced “seen;” rhymes with bean, lean) is the past participle of see. It indicates the speaker saw something or observed something frequently in the past or over a period of time. Saw indicates one instance, seen indicates more than one and it used in conjunction with another verb.

  • I have seen some crazy things in my 50 years on this planet.
  • He has seen too much.
  • The claim they aren’t having an affair, but they were seen leaving the hotel together.
  • We have seen little interest from home buyers since putting our house up for sale.

The following story uses both correctly:

Simone asked her boyfriend, Sean, if he still liked her. They had dated through high school. But her friends had seen him talking the new girl multiple times.

“What do you mean? Of course I still like you.”

“Then why do you talk to the new girl so much?”

“She doesn’t know where anything is. Wait, are you spying on me? I didn’t want to tell you this but Melissa is a real busybody, you know. She just wants to break us up to create drama.”

Simone couldn’t believe what she was hearing. About Melissa, any of it.

Easily Confused Words: Amazon vs. Amazing

Amazon and amazing are easily confused words.

Amazon (pronounced “am-uh-zawn”) is a proper noun.

  • It can mean a large river flowing through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil on the continent of South America. The Amazon is the second longest river in the world, and it is the largest by the volume of water it expels into the Atlantic.
  • It can mean the rainforest that surrounds the river. The rainforest is home to indigenous tribes, unique plants and animals. It is also called the lungs of the planet because its thousands of trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which land animals, including humans, need to survive.
  • It can mean an internet company founded in the late 1990s. Originally selling books, it has since expanded into offering just about everything shippable to customer’s homes, and has an entertainment division as well.

Amazing (pronounced “uh-may-zihng”) is an adjective. It describes something that is surprising, alarming, or enchanting for a viewer.

The following story uses both words correctly:

It was 1983. Amelia, 5, hadn’t seen her mother, April, in months. April was on assignment for Gaea Quarterly. When April returned, she had many rolls of film developed. When the pictures came back, she shared them with the family. Amelia was amazed at the variety of creatures and plants they depicted. She knew she wanted to be a naturalist when she grew up.

Easily Confused Words: Confusion vs. Contusion

Confusion and contusion 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.

Contusion (pronounced “kuhn-tooj-yun”) is a noun. It is a physiology/medicine word. It’s a bigger word for “bruise.” If you watch medical dramas on television (US: Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Chicago Hope, Chicago Med), they’ve likely mentioned this word.

Confusion (pronounced “kuhn-fyooj-yun”) is a noun. It means a state of not really understanding what’s happening, or how something works.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Conleth said he was okay after sustaining multiple blows at Friday night’s game. As he continued to play, he seemed riddled with confusion and slow. The coach called him back off the field and said, “I need the doctors to look you over.” Conleth passed out. When they removed his helmet and gear, he had multiple contusions on his upper body, and it was likely he had suffered a concussion. He was taken to the hospital immediately.

Easily Confused Words: Mature vs. Nature

Mature and nature 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.

Mature (pronounced “muh-tyuhr”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes someone who behaves with the restraint and composure expected of an adult.
  • As an adjective, it describes media, books, or other content suited only for ages 18+, as in the phrase “mature content.”
  • As a verb, it means to grow, or undergoing changes associated with aging, in living things.

Nature (pronounced “nay-tyuhr”) is a noun with multiple meanings.

  • It is a general term for wilderness and the wildlife in it.
  • It can mean someone’s personality or disposition.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Matthias liked spending time in nature from a very early age. His parents thought he would gravitate toward more social activities as he matured, but this was not the case.

Easily Confused Words: Marshal vs. Marshall

Marshal and Marshall 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.

Marshal (pronounced “mahrrsh-uhl”) has multiple forms.

As a noun, it can mean a job:

  • in the military
  • the chief of police or fire department
  • a police officer on a plane: “sky marshal”
  • a police officer dealing with federal issues, or a peace officer
  • an administrative role in a royal court
  • an administrative role in a judicial court

As a verb, it means to gather, guide, or assemble people. It can also mean collecting votes or pledges of money.

Marshall (pronounced “mahrrsh-uhl”) is a noun. It is French.

  • It is masculine first name that means “horse keeper.” One example of a famous person with this first name is Marshall Mathers, but you probably know his stage name: Eminem.
  • Fictional characters with this name:
    • On US television, Marshall Eriksen (played by Jason Segel) was a main character on the 2000s sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
    • In 2010s animation, Marshall is the name of the Dalmatian firedog in Paw Patrol on Nickelodeon.
  • It can also be a surname. A biopic of the first black US Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, came out in 2017. Other famous people with the Marshall surname are listed here.
  • The political term “Marshall Plan” was the US’s effort to help Western Europe rebuild after WWII. It was named for former US Army General and the Secretary of State in that era, George Marshall.
  • The US also has a store of discount merchandise called “Marshalls.”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Marshall had been a fire marshal in his community for 20 years. But now, he was going to try his hand at politics and run for the mayor’s office. He hadn’t thought he was the political type, but the past three mayors hadn’t done much to improve the city. It appears they only ran for social status reasons, and the town was suffering due to their indifference.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Martial vs. Marital