Easily Misread Words: Intimate vs. Intimate

Intimate and intimate are easily misread words. A problem arises when a word is said the wrong way when read aloud. Its pronunciation doesn’t make sense given the context of the rest of the sentence.

One pronunciation works for the verb, another works for the adjective and noun. These are homographs, words that are spelled the same, but are pronounced in different ways and mean different things. Homographs are a kind of homonym, more on that here.

Intimate (pronounced “ihn-tih-MAYT”) is a verb.

  • It means to imply or communicate without words (eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice)
  • An older use of this word means to make known.

Intimate (pronounced “ihn-tuh-muht”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes scenarios of privacy, usually involving two people, or very limited company.
  • As a noun, it describes clothing, usually underwear, bras, robes, bustiers, garter belts, corsets, etc.

The following story uses both words correctly:

“If there aren’t any other takers, I’ll need Ian to take the lead on this special project.”

No one else spoke for a second. Then Ian offered, “I have quite a bit on my plate already, actually…? Anyone else?” He looked around hopefully but all he saw were people who were checked out mentally, or people trying to avoid eye contact with him altogether.

“Anyone? No?”

“Well Ian, looks like it’s all yours,” Steve smiled. Then he turned to the crowd. “That’s all I have unless someone has questions.

“I think we need to do my performance review,” Ian said. “Not here in the hall, of course. A more intimate setting than this.”

Steve didn’t really look at him when he said, “We’ll need to discuss that later. I can’t today. Anyone else?”

Ian intimated that his performance review wasn’t coming this week, again. And it had been postponed twice already. Why was he first in line for more work, but last in line for a review of what he’d done in the last year? When it was time to discuss a raise?

“Where should I pickup lunch from today?” asked Steve’s assistant.

“Philly’s Subs works for me. Okay, everyone, thanks! Gotta make some calls! You’re doing great!”


Easily Misread Words: Putting vs. Putting

Putting and putting are easily misread words. The challenge isn’t in the spelling, it’s the pronunciation when read aloud. The rest of the words in the sentence, the context, provide clues as to which pronunciation makes sense. This is an example of a homograph, or words spelled the same, but pronounced differently and with different meanings. [Homographs are a type of homonym, click the link to learn more.]

Putting (pronounced “pooo-tihng;”) is the gerund form of the verb “put.”

  • To put means to position or place an object, so “putting” indicates that activity is happening in the present moment.
  • In relationships:
    • people talk about “putting up with” someone else. In this sense, they are tolerating irritating habits or behavior from that other person.
    • people talk about “putting someone down.” He/she wasn’t literally carrying this person, but insulting them, or talking badly about him or her.

For example:

  • Stop putting toys or plastic bricks on the stairs, they are a tripping hazard.
  • Who says putting mayonnaise on French fries is weird?
  • I really need you to start putting your laundry in the hamper, not the floor next to the hamper, not in the bathroom. This is not a hotel.
  • Focus on putting your homework and books aside for now. Then I need you to put the placemats and silverware on the table. Dinner is ready.

In pop culture, I was struggling to find songs saying “putting” in their title. The following use “put:”

Putting (pronounced “puh-tihng;” rhymes with cutting, butting, jutting)

  • As the gerund form of the verb “putt.” This verb is exclusive to the sport of golf. To putt is to strike the ball with a club. So “putting” indicates this activity is happening right now in the present moment. (If you’ve never heard of or seen golf played, I’ve linked (no pun intended) to a video about the basics of the sport.)
  • As an adjective, it modifies items related to golf. The landscaped green space for playing golf is sometimes called “the putting green.” Indoor golf toys and games, meant to imitate the real thing, are also called putting greens.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Patterson, Country Club President, called his grounds crew and left an irritated voicemail. “Are you sure you’re using enough weed killer? Customers are complaining about it being unsightly. Clusters of weeds screwing up their shots. I went by myself just now. I’ve never seen it this bad. We have so much crabgrass on the putting green!”

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Putting vs. Pudding

Easily Misread Words: Sow vs. Sow

Sow and sow are easily confused words. They are an example of a homograph: words spelled the same, but they are pronounced differently and mean different things. Homographs are a type of homonym, click the link to learn more.

Context provides the keys to what word makes sense in every sentence. The context is the scenario created by the other words in that sentence.

Sow (pronounced “s-ow;” rhymes with plow, cow, how) is a noun.

  • In agriculture, it can mean full grown female pig.
  • In nature, it can mean adult female bears, badgers, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs.
  • In metallurgy, it means an iron mould with a row of subordinate molds connected to it, physically resembling a row of sucking piglets feeding on their mother’s teats. Here is a video about steel production.

Sow (pronounced “soh;” rhymes with mow, flow, low, tow) is a verb.

  • It means planting seeds in the ground for gardening or agriculture.
  • In a more figurative sense:
    • it means to do the work to get a project started.
    • it can mean creating or stirring up trouble or conflict: “sowing seeds of discontent”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Saul was attempting to sow seeds for a sunflower crop when he heard noise behind him. The neighbors prize sow was following his tracks and digging up the seeds and gobbling them. Saul pulled out his cell phone and took a photo and sent the text to his neighbor.

“Tom, Sadie has gotten loose again. Please get your truck and come fetch her as soon as possible.”

Easily Misread Words: Saké vs. Sake

Saké and sake are easily misread words. They are homographs, words spelled the same, but pronounced differently. Homographs are a type of homonym, click the link to learn more.

Context, meaning the other words in the sentence, are a guide for which pronunciation makes sense.

Saké (pronounced “sock + kay,” sometimes “socky”) is a noun. It means a rice-based fermented beverage that hails from Japan. It may or may not be written with an accent on the “e.” [Sometimes you may see it spelled “saki.”]

Sake (pronounced “say + ck”) is a noun. It means a reason, purpose, cause, benefit belonging to someone or something. A popular idiom is, “for goodness sake,” meaning for the purpose of goodness or righteousness. Other idioms meaning about the same thing include for heaven’s sake, for Pete’s sake (meaning St. Peter), and for Christ’s sake (or the run together, “Chrissake.”)

The following story uses both words correctly:

Sakarias poured five glasses of saké for himself and his four best friends. It was the night after college graduation. Sergei swaggered into the room moments later, followed by Joel and Dave. He gulped his shot down as his friends reached for theirs. “Let’s get this party started for Pete’s sake!”  he shouted as he poured another glass.