Inane and insane are easily confused words. Both touch on things not making sense, but for different reasons.
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.
Inane (pronounced “ihn-ainn”) is an adjective.
- It can describe something silly or irrelevant
- It can describe something empty, void, or lacking substance
Insane (pronounced “ihn-say-nnn”) is an adjective.
- It describes someone not in their right mind
- It describes an event, usually caused by people, that is illogical, unbelievable, or disregarding of norms. Oftentimes the behavior isn’t crazy, it’s more likely ignorant, careless, greedy, or a combination of these.
- It can be a derogatory word used towards people suffering from a mental illness that isn’t widely understood. In the US, a lot of mental illnesses are not widely understood. Historically, mentally ill people were a problem to be dealt with or hidden rather than treated like illnesses in other parts of the body. Patients were locked up in an asylum (or sanitorium), and some were given a lobotomy.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Inez looked at her like she was insane. Zoey was perplexed, so she asked, “What? Was it something I said?”
“Yes. Your commentary about my situation has been inane and your manner aloof. You’re totally not engaged. If you can’t be a good listener why are we even spending time together right now?”
Zooey looked around. “I’ve never been to this bar before. They did a really nice job decorating.”
Inez made an audible ARRGHH sound. “I’m done. Here’s five dollars for my drink. I’m using the restroom and leaving. You can enjoy this ambiance all by yourself.”