Easily Confused Words: Ethnic vs. Ethic

Ethnic and ethic 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.

Ethnic (pronounced “eth-nihck”) is an adjective. It describes the different peoples or tribes that are reflected in a person’s DNA and the characteristics of their physical appearance.

Combinations of hair color, eye color, skin color, hair texture, skin characteristics reflect all the people that led to each person alive today. As people around the world have become more mobile and sought better economic opportunities, there’s been more blending and mixing among different ethnicities than when people had to travel on foot.

  • In the phrase, “ethnic cleansing,” one group seeks to eliminate another group from a territory or country; this can include deportation, torture, and genocide. Examples of this in recent history happened in 1995 in Rwanda, and in the 1990s in Bosnia (a province in the former Yugoslavia.) Check out the link to learn more.

Ethic (pronounced “eth-ick’) is a noun. It means a standard for behavior, business practices, medical care, or another action.

  • The plural form, “ethics” is a set of these standards. While each person likely has a personal set of ethics, a business or trade has a set of standards that were discussed by a board or other governing body, and collectively agreed upon.
  • The phrase “work ethic” means possessing the focus and discipline to execute quality workmanship, working steadily during one’s shift, and holding oneself accountable for meeting high productivity and quality standards. In short, a person with a good work ethic doesn’t waste the company’s time or money with their efforts, and they earn their paycheck.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Ethel was eager to go to a job fair in her community. Some were conducting informal interviews, so she signed up for one. She sat down to chat with a representative at a new small business in town. “What makes you want to work for our company?” the representative asked. “I’m very curious about your industry, it’s experiencing tremendous growth lately. I am eager to get started somewhere, I have a high work ethic.”

“Well tell me a little more about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your ethnic background?”

Ethel’s face fell. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate question for a job interview. I could tell you about my work experience and education. But I’m too uncomfortable to continue here. I really think it’s best I move on to other appointments right now.”  She got up and left. What choice did she have? If they didn’t know the rules for interviews, what else didn’t they know? What else might they expect their employees wouldn’t know either, expect them to just play along regardless? 

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Easily Confused Words: Suppressant vs. Soppressata

Suppressant and soppressata 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.

Suppressant (pronounced “suh-press-uhnt”) is a noun. It is a word relating to over the counter drugs and pharmaceuticals. A suppressant is a liquid or solid drug designed to stop a pesky, repetitive activity.

For example, if you have a cold you may take a cough suppressant to stop coughing so much, and to break up mucus in your chest so that when you do cough, some of that nasty stuff is expelled.

Other OTC drugs include appetite suppressants, which are designed to make you feel full so you don’t want to eat or snack.

Soppressata (pronounced “soh-press-sah-tuh”; other spellings include soprassata, sopressata) is a proper noun. It means a dry sausage made from pork. Check out more information here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Zuppo was feeling pretty rough, but someone had to prepare the Christmas gift baskets of aged cheese, summer sausage, and soppressattas for the holiday season. So here he was. He was almost finished with a strong espresso when the owner, Sabina Susita, arrived.

“Wow you look rough, Zuppo. Are you coming down with something?”

“Maybe. But I’ll pull through today, Ms. Susita.”

“Zuppo, I do appreciate your commitment to coming to work, but you’re too ill. A sick person can’t be handling food, even preserved food. Go home, take some aspirin and a cough suppressant. Sleep it off, and come back in a couple days.”

Easily Confused Words: Loathe vs. Loaf

Loathe and loaf 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.

Loathe (pronounced “low-thh”) is a verb. It means to hate or detest someone or something.

Loaf (pronounced “loh-wff”; rhymes with doaf) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a baked portion of bread. Some loaves with wet, runny doughs are baked in pans. Other loaves have yeast gluten holding them together, so they can be placed panless, directly on an oven grate surface (with some seed on the bottom so they don’t stick.) The plural of loaf is loaves.
  • As a verb, it means to sit around, to be lazy or slothful.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Loana was not a morning person; she was loathe to wake up before sunrise. But her parents were on a special anniversary trip, and this was the family business. So she made some coffee at 5am, then headed to the shop to make the loaves for the day.

Easily Confused Words: Enunciate vs. Annunciate

Enunciate and Annunciate 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.

Enunciate (pronounced “ee-nuhn-see-ate”) is a verb. It means to speak with utmost clarity, saying each word slowly and pronouncing each syllable fully.

If you using a voice-command system and it doesn’t hear you the first time or even the third time, you may find yourself over-enunciating in order to be understood. Like Flo in a recent Progressive insurance ad. (I know I do.)

A less familiar meaning of enunciate means to declare or proclaim, but I don’t see this used much. Just be forewarned that if you use this spelling for this meaning, readers will likely balk.

Annunciate (pronounced “uh-nuhn-see-ate”) is a verb. It means to announce. It’s noun form, annunciation, means an announcement.

  • As a proper noun “the Annunciation” in Roman Catholicism is the day the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would bear the baby, Jesus Christ. This moment is captured in countless European paintings, sculpture, and frescoes, from the 4th Century and into the Renaissance. Learn more here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Every week, a new sixth grader was asked to read the morning annunciations over the PA system at school. This week was Enfys’s turn, and he was very nervous. He didn’t have a lot of experience reading aloud.

“Maybe if I read them fast, I won’t feel nervous too long,” he thought, “I’ll just get it over with as soon as possible.”

So he stepped up to the mic and raced through them as fast he could. If he couldn’t pronounce a word, he didn’t care.

After a few sentences, the office administrator, Ms. Annaleigh, who had been listening, asked him to step away from the mic and let the button go.

“Enfys I am going to need you to go slower and enunciate more so everyone can understand you. I’m not catching anything you are saying. This is important information for the students to know. You need to try again. And first, we’re going to go through the script and make sure you know how to say all these words or pick easier ones.”

This was so embarrassing. 

 

Easily Confused Words: Hare vs. Hair

Hare and hair are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they sound the same, but are spelled differently, and possess different meanings.

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.

Hare (pronounced “hayuhrr”; rhymes with mare, care) is a noun. It means a creature in the same family as rabbits, but much larger. For example, what’s called a jack rabbit, native of the US Southwest, is actually a hare.

Like all hares, it has much larger ears than rabbits, and some black markings on its mostly brown fur. Hare’s legs are longer and extend further away from their bodies than those of rabbits. The snowshoe hare grows a solid white coat for winter, then turns back to brown and black for the spring.

Hair (pronounced “hayuhrr”; rhymes with flair, lair) is a noun. It means the fibrous strands growing out of the skin of mammals.

When humans talk about their hair, they typically mean what’s growing out of the top of the head, but hair of varying colors and thicknesses grows out of the most of the body’s skin. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin, and it’s attached to nerves below the skin’s surface. Melanin is what gives hair its color.

  • The phrase “hair-raising” describes something shocking or alarming.
  • The phrase “hair of the dog (that bit you)” means the cocktail you were drinking last night that made you hung over this morning. And the only cure is drinking some more alcohol.
  • The phrase “tearing one’s hair out” means being frustrated, angry or anxious about something he/she can’t control.

There’s also many idioms about hair.

  • To “split hairs” is to be argumentative about small details.
  • In the musical South Pacific, one character “wants to wash that man out of my hair,” meaning she wants to move on with her life and forget about him.
  • To “get in someone’s hair” means to pester or annoy him or her.

The following story uses both words correctly:

“Harriet you’ll never be ready for school if you don’t come inside this instant! Your hair is a fright!” her dad cried.

But Harriet had spied a snowshoe hare hopping by the house and couldn’t resist chasing it. Winter was, by far, her favorite season. 

 

 

Easily Confused Words: Affable vs. Laughable

Affable and laughable 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.

Affable (pronounced “aff-uh-buhl”) is an adjective. It describes someone who is friendly and easy to get along with, not easily angered or panicked. It can also describe behaviors or mannerisms that indicate cordiality, approachability, and friendliness.

Laughable (pronounced “laff-uh-buhl”) is an adjective. It describes something ridiculous, preposterous, something unlikely to happen.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Affera was one of the most popular daytime talk show hosts on TV, with a career spanning 30 years and many daytime Emmys. It was very surprising when she decided to change gears and get into filmmaking. They day after her last show aired, she was interviewed by Carson Jones that night.

“You can talk to anybody and immediately put them at ease. Where you always so  affable?” 

“Oh that’s laughable!” she said, letting out a guffaw. “Actually I was a nervous wreck. I was worried about looking foolish. I was self-conscious: why would these big important people talk to me?”

“Yep, I know what you mean,” Carson nodded and smiled at the camera, implying this is common among newbies in the industry.

She continued, “It was years before I realized the other person was often nervous, too. If I fixated on putting them at ease, being curious, I was too busy to think about myself and my own discomfort. And of course, the longer I did it, day after day, the easier it got.”

Easily Confused Words: Muffin vs. Muffaletta

Muffin and muffaletta 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.

Muffin (pronounced “muh-fihn”)

  • As a noun. It can mean a subtly sweet, small domed cake that often contains nuts and fruit. They are baked in a cupcake paper, and/or indented baking tin with 6-12 spaces. Muffins are typically served at breakfast. They are more moist and soft than scones. English muffins are an anomaly in the muffin world. They are a slightly sour tasting yeast bread that is split in half and toasted. It is used at fast food restaurants to enfold breakfast sandwiches. Biscuits are delicious, but they aren’t a functional sandwich bread because they soft, crumbly, and their buttery crust can stain clothes. An English muffin holds together much better.
  • As an adjective, it can describe love handles and torso fat that bulges out over a waistband: “muffin top.”
  • As a noun, in slang:
    • it can be used as a term of endearment
    • directed towards an attractive male: “Stud muffin”

Muffaletta (pronounced “muh-fuh-let-uh”) is a noun. It means a large salami and ham sandwich served on a thick, round roll spread with an olives and garlic dressing. The Muffaletta was created in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Murdock knew he had to lay off the muffalettas and eat more turkey and tuna wraps if he hoped to lose his muffin top before prom. It was hard when your parents owned a deli.