Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WNW: Homophones the Sequel

I keep a running list of homophone blunders I come across, and when it gets long enough, we get another Word Nerd Wednesday featuring the latest fun.

7 more word pairs to keep straight:

  • If you're struggling to make ends meet, you eke out a living, meaning you get it with great difficulty.
  • When you open the pantry and a mouse scurries between your feet you shriek, "Eek!"

I'm going to be honest; this is a word pair I regularly pause to think over to make sure I get it right.
  • When I write a novel, it's discrete, individually distinct from any other.
  • If Sammy hears a juicy piece of gossip, she knows how to be discreet by using good judgment and not blabbering it about publicly.

  • In high school, I was generally too shy to speak up. I had to learn to be bolder in class.
  • I used to live on a street named after a huge gray boulder, a stone taller than my ten-year-old self.

I've seen this pair mixed up a lot lately, with the second word used as the first, even by highly educated folks. It has me scratching my head. A refresher:
  • Laura had to to decide between buying the red or green blouse and opted for the latter. In other words, she's now the proud owner of a green blouse, since it was listed second.
  • Had Laura arrived at the store an hour later, the green one might have already been sold, so she'd have bought the red one.
I address this pair in my grammar book, but it bears repeating. The first word here (passed) is a verb that already happened:
  • As Dave rode his bike to work, cars passed him awfully close.
The other word (past) could be either a noun or a preposition. (It can also be an adjective, but let's keep it simple for today.)
  • Noun: Tell me about your the last three years of your past.
  • Preposition: Scott walked right past Julie without recognizing her.

allot/a lot
Peeve, peeve, peeve. First of all, note that I didn't write alot. That would be because it's not a word. You need the space between the A and the LOT. TWO words. For the love.

The two words in action:
  • Pete planned to allot thirty minutes for his lunch break at work.
  • On second thought, make that forty-five. He was starving and knew he'd eat a lot.

This is a recent confused pair. I'm guessing it has something to do with the popularity of American Idol. (Although if that's true, wouldn't more people know the difference? It's a puzzler.)
  • Janice planned lots of activities for summer to keep her children from being idle.
  • Jenny's mother wished she'd find someone else to look up to instead of her idol, Lindsay Lohan.
The other day, I borrowed a book from my dad that will likely inspire future WNW posts and will definitely bring me lots of nerdy joy: Diction of Confusing Words and Meanings.

I'm salivating already.


Melanie Jacobson said...

I see the past/passed mix up allot. (Ha.)

Jordan McCollum said...

Oh man. The more I learn, the more I confuse myself with homophones. Discrete/discreet is one I pause over, too (which is silly, because how often do I use "discrete"?). I've never really thought about bolder and boulder being confusing. But I probably will now for the rest of my life.

You've probably seen this before but here's alot:

Kristina P. said...

I think the only one I don't really use is discrete. I had to think about when I would actually use that version.

Heidi said...

Phew! I am not guilty of misusing any of these. But, I have to admit, I did not know the word "discrete".

Lara Neves said...

Honestly, I have always thought that discrete was an archaic spelling of discreet. Perhaps because I only seem to come across it in novels written more than 100 years ago.

Sarah M Eden said...

How 'bout latter/ladder and shutter/shudder and pedal/peddle/petal. I always have to look up those last three to make sure I'm using the correct spelling--I can never remember which is which.

Sarah M Eden said...

Ooh, ooh, ooh! And roll/role -- I get those wrong ALL THE TIME!

Susan Anderson said...

I don't use discrete, either.

I'm always amazed at how many errors of this sort one sees in the blogosphere and elsewhere.


Sarah M Eden said...

dual/duel (and you have to throw in "duly" because I see it written as "duely"/"dualy")


reek/wreak (while Reek Havoc would make an excellent name for an Axe Body Spray scent, it makes me twitch hardcore when I see it outside that potential context)


loose/lose (not the exact same sound, but confused all the time)

Someone stop me!!

Annette Lyon said...

Thanks for all those Sarah!

*frantically taking notes*

T.J. said...

Gee, Sarah, you left off the one that most people get wrong:

Sarah/Sara (I mean, really!)

But, there's also:




I'm sure I'm missing other awesome ones.

JaredNGarrett said...

This is good stuff. I have no additional peeves on this subject, but it bugs me when people say "There's seven chairs in there."


Anonymous said...

As you might guess from my malaprop-collecting hobby, I truly have NO difficulty with any of these. I know I'm bragging, but it's true. I just see them as different words. Lose/loose, which is as common as dirt on the internet, particularly baffles me. The two words don't even sound the same!

I had an English professor who said she thought there was a gene for spelling, and either you have it, or you don't. I think that might be true. (I do have a few common words I can't spell. Usually it's the double-letter ones that get me--it always takes me several tries to spell "unnecessary.")

Since I haven't made any worthwhile contribution here yet, I'll go dip into my malaprop list:

siccing (as in to sic a dog on someone) vs. sicking




And I have so many more. I'm VERY long overdue for a malaprop post. :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll says that sicking is a valid spelling. I guess I'll have to go scratch that one off my list.

Anonymous said...

Also: I know you've seen this before, but since some of your writer-friends won't have, and since it features one of your examples above, I can't resist re-sharing this one.

T.J. said...

I almost wrote tie, when I meant Thai. So here you go:


T.J. said...

Oo, wait, just thought of another one:



I'm sure I can come up with more.

Helena said...

How about phase/faze (as in "no longer fazed us"--I just spotted that in your previous post. ;)

Helena said...

Wow, I found a repeatedly misused word on your blog! Do I get a prize?

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

As an editor, the pair I see MOST misused by clients (including in books that I'm doing a final proof on) is THEN/THAN.

Anonymous said...

Helena, I hate to break it to you, but fazed ("to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt: The worst insults cannot faze him"--from is the correct word as she used it. (Unless she said "phase" and has since corrected it.) A phase is a period of time or a stage.

Sarah M Eden said...

Thank you, myimaginaryblog. I kept going back over that trying to figure out what I was missing. Phased and fazed are confused all the time, but I was 100% certain that Annette used it correctly. Maybe I'm not going crazy, after all.

Annette Lyon said...

Confession--I did originally have PHASED, and I fixed it.

Here's the thing--I have never claimed to have an error-free blog, and I reserve the right to screw up here and there. I do know the difference between the words, but it's not uncommon for my fingers to tap out the wrong one (then my brain has to go into higher gear to catch it and fix it).

I may be a Word Nerd, but I'm also human. :)

Jessica G. said...

Only you would go wild over a book about confusing words...all the more reason why I love ya!

(And I got the book back from my buddy so I can get it back to you soon.)


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