Mammatus and Mammoth 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.
Mammatus (pronounced “muh-MAH-tuhss”) is a type of cloud, also called mammatocumulus. It is named for mammory glands, the glands responsible for milk production in mammals. Another way to describe these clouds? They look like cotton balls covering the sky, or scattered across the sky. If you live (or visit) the American Plains–Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, you have almost 180 degrees of sky to enjoy interesting cloud formations, stars, and sunsets.
- Mammatus clouds in Oklahoma
- Mammatus clouds in Nebraska
- Weather Channel video about these clouds featuring Paul Goodloe.
Mammoth (pronounced “mam-uth”) has multiple meanings.
- As a noun, it means a large, furry pachyderm with huge curved tusks and small curved ears. That lived during the Ice Age in what is modern day Russia, Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States. At one time, a land bridge connected these lands across the Pacific Ocean making massive migration 100,000 years ago easy for these beasts, which fed on grasses. Check out more information here. Since these creatures went extinct a long time ago, modern CGI is used to animate what a migration might have looked like here.
Mammoths are related to mastodons, but the latter is shorter, stockier (more muscular), with straight tusks and pointy teeth. The mammoth’s teeth were more flat.
As an adjective, it describes some huge or gigantic in size, like this creature.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Marisol had had an incredible day. Her dad Miguel had taken her along on a paleontology trip to unearth a huge mammoth skeleton in western Canada. She got to try using the picks and soft brushes used to to expose the long buried bones. She got to watch them compare them to computer images of a full skeleton to match the bones to the right parts of its body.
That night she fell asleep under sky full of mammatus clouds. She dreamed the mammoths were alive again and playing in the snow. The snowballs they tossed around with their trunks looked like these clouds.
The above story is fiction, but recently, 60 mammoth skeletons were found on the site planned for a new airport in Mexico City. Click the link to learn more.
The following post also discusses clouds: Easily Confused Words: Cirrus vs. Sirius