Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Misused Words 2

"Haloed" by the setting sun - Venice Fishing Pier, Venice, FL - Susie in hat, Mike behind

Followed by another gorgeous Gulf Coast sunset

Although Connecticut is still "home," 25 years in Venice makes it my second home - an ideal location with constant seabreeze, boutique shopping, and "jungle" hiking that makes it a great place to visit as well. And doing a workshop for the Southwest Florida Romance Writers gave me an opportunity to do so. Plus we timed the trip for the Venice Sun Fiesta, always a high-old-time for music, food, and unique crafts before the onslaught of tourists arrives for the "Season." Icing on the cake - our favorite waterfront restaurant had added a gourmet-style second story, and we managed to get outdoor seating overlooking sand, dune grass, and the Gulf - at night with the stars coming out. Wow! (It's so fancy it even had an elevator. In Venice, yet!)

And, yes, if my Romantic Suspense/Mystery readers are wondering . . . Venice is the deep dark secret behind my "Golden Beach" books. (Why a secret? Because the number of residents triples each Season, and the year-round residents really, really don't want that to increase to "quadruple"!)


lead (pronounced "leed") - a noun meaning forefront; also, as a verb, the present tense of led.  She seized the lead in the race.  No matter where he leads, she follows.
lead (pronounced "led") - a metal. Ancient alchemists kept trying to turn lead into gold.
led -  guided; past tense of lead. He led the hikers along the path. 

lightening - growing lighter. The sun is rising; the sky is lightening. 
lightning - the bright burst of electricity before the thunder crashes. The eastern sky was filled with jagged streaks of lightning.

maize - corn. The Spanish may have called this Native American plant maiz, but today's North Americans call it corn.
maze -  labyrinth. A cornfield maze can be almost as hard to navigate as a maze of classic yew hedges. 

marquee - a canopy; also, the projection in front of a theater. Most outdoor weddings are held under some sort of marquee.
marquis - a noble title just beneath the rank of duke. The eldest sons of dukes often have the title of marquis. 

muscle - a part of the body many people, particularly men, attempt to enhance.  Three teenage girls admired the lifeguard's muscles.
mussel - a blue crustacean some people enjoy eating. My grandchildren actually like to eat mussels!

 Here are two examples of three words pronounced exactly alike but with wildly different meanings:

pair - two of a kind. A pair of twins.
pare - to peel. It takes a while to pare a potato or an apple, while scraping carrots is fast and easy.
pear - a fruit. Pears are very tasty.

peak - top of a mountain. It was a long hike, but I finally reached the peak.
peek - to glance (usually surreptitiously). The lady peeked over her fan at the handsome gentleman.
pique - to excite (interest/attention), to be intrigued. The girl in the string bikini piqued his interest.

perpetrate - to commit, as in perpetrate a crime. This word is the origin of the police term, "perp."
perpetuate - to prolong. Some tall tales are perpetuated long beyond their time.

principal - head of a school; something of importance; primary. The castle was the duke's principal residence.
principle - an important belief. In spite of threats from all sides, he stuck to his principles.
Another threesome:

rain - what falls from the sky. The TV weatherman tries to predict when it is going to rain.
reign - to rule. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for a long time.
rein - what you use to guide a horse.  Don't drop your reins!

regardless - in spite of. Regardless of all the people who advised him not to, he dropped out of college.
irregardless - NO SUCH WORD EXISTS!   

shear - to cut.  In Australia they shear a lot of sheep.
sheer - transparent.  Her nightgown was so sheer it left little to the imagination.

stationary - fixed in one place.  That heavy machine remained stationary. It was much too hard to move.
stationery - something we write on. The desk drawer held a box of elegant stationery.

The following two words are pronounced exactly alike, although "suite" is badly mangled in some parts of the country.

suite - connected rooms, often used in the address of an apartment or office space; also used to describe a set of coordinated furniture. Mary's new bedroom suite is in the French Provincial style.
sweet - sugary, good-natured, kind. Sweet is both a taste and a personality trait.

Another trio of tricky words:

their - a possessive pronoun. Their uniforms are red with white piping.
there - a location (not where you are at the moment). See that house over there? That's where the Spauldings live.
they're - a contraction. Use only when what you want to say can be translated as "they are." They're a really good football team.

vain - used to describe someone overly obsessive about his/her appearance. Lady Anabelle was so vain, it was difficult for anyone to like her.
vane - a blade moved by the wind. Ancient windmills had four vanes; 19th c. mid-western windmills had as many as thirty vanes; modern wind machines have only three.
vein - the many vessels inside your body that carry blood.  A nurse has to pierce a vein with a needle in order to get a blood sample from a patient.

We'll end with a pair of words that are mostly abused by people who know better - but somehow the darn words insist on popping up in the wrong place. Our fingers stubbornly type one thing when we mean another. They're almost as bad as "its" and "it's"!

who's - use this contraction only when you mean "who is."  Who's going to the movies tonight?
whose - a possessive.  Whose books are scattered all over the couch?

Last-minute addition:

My eyes popped last night as I read a book by a highly talented author, who made an error that just goes to prove how easy it is for our fingers to type a sound-alike word and for it to go unnoticed, even by the eagle-eyes of both author and the copy editor of a major New York publisher. So I'm adding below two words it never occurred to me could be misused.

sextant - a navigational instrument once used by ships at sea.  The captain of the clipper ship used his sextant to plot a course.
sexton - the person who maintains a church building and its contents. When everyone had gone home, the sexton made sure the church was locked up tight.

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Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

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1 comment:

  1. Loved your list! I often have to stop and think about which word I'm typing. You are going to think these are crazy but I figure whatever makes it stick in my brain. I remember stationery because it has an E in it like paper has an E. And a principal is a pal. I've kept stalactites and stalagmites straight because stalactites must hold on very *tight* to the ceiling and stalagmites are *mighty* hard to move so they sit on the floor. LOL I think it was my third grade teacher who suggested looking for silly clues in words to keep them straight and it has stuck with me. I taught my children to do the same thing.