Saturday, November 01, 2008

Six sets of troublesome words

First, a little background.

My father was an excellent speller and he always said, "If a man could spell every word in the English language correctly, I'd wonder why he'd wasted his life."

I would always smile and accept my less than perfect spelling as evidence a well-spent life. This worked well for me until I was hired by man, who spelled even better than my father. Furthermore, he viewed anyone, so slovenly and poorly educated, that made spelling errors as unfit for employment.

Naturally, I adored my shiny new boss and wanted to keep collecting paychecks. I became a diligent spell checker, stayed employed, and learned a ton of useful skills.

Despite all this energetic effort on my part there are still words that give me trouble--

affect/effect--affect is pure verb--effect can be either noun or verb--I still double check that I've got the one I meant.

callus/callous--thicken skin vs. heartless behavior, why is it we need two words? There are plenty of words that have more than one meaning....

flaunt/flout--show off vs. rebel I know I've read of people flaunting the rules, which simply adds to the confusion. If one can't trust copy editors to get things right....

lay/lie(set)/lie(fib)--technically three words but since two of them are spelled and pronounced exactly the same, only conjugating differently, I'm including them as a troublesome pair.

meretricious/meritorious--appear distinctive enough not to be confused, but again I've read them misused, often enough to always consult the dictionary.

Wreak/wreck--one wreaks havoc, but wrecks cars. English usage does not require either logic or consistency.

Please feel free to add your own bothersome words....

2 Comments:

Anonymous Jill Sorenson said...

I hear mischievous pronounced as "mischee-vee-ous" a lot.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Evanne Lorraine said...

Getting upset about word usage, or sloppy enunciation is a writer thing, isn't it? (Laughing at myself)

10:14 AM  

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