Houston, We Have A Word Problem!

Posted by on Sep 22 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

Recently, in the middle of seeking reference material, I came across quite a punctilious-looking company profile for some construction company. The keywords were well-laid out, the content was systematically proportioned and the writer had done a fine job of tying baubles and ribbons to the text in the form of bullets, charts and the usual pretty suspects. But in the midst of skimming through the article, I noticed that the word ‘site’ had been tragically replaced by ‘cite’. This meant that every time the writer meant to point out an area, the reader would be keeping a weary eye out for an official declaration or two!

Looking back, I’ve noticed that word confusions (or tripped terms, if you please) are commonplace and, unlike grammar mistakes or sentence mis-formulations, we don’t even have Messrs. Word to mark them green or red, because, technically, they’re good to go. Either as a result of a garbled lexicon or, alternately, an eye untrained in matters of concerted après perusal of the copy, word confusions end up disfiguring the implication of the sentence. Sometimes this ends up as a subject of harmless hilarity. Otherwise, the endgame involves the brow-beaten writer at the receiving end of an oiled whiplash that is the boss’s verbal lambast. Mostly, it passes away, peaceably unnoticed.

Here are some word jumbles that I’ve come across in recent times:

Reign/Rein

A very common pothole, which still manages to trap its victims with alacrity. Reign means a period of royal rule whereas rein merely corresponds to a horse’s strap. I once read an article (on a reputed history website to make matters worse) where the ‘rein’ of Richard, the Lionhearted was described as bloody and violent. Either it was a case of word confusion or, to give the benefit of doubt, Sir Richard probably needed a change of steed.

Allude/Elude

Another very common mistake, which can have alarming consequences, given the right (or should I say wrong?) sentence. Allude is defined as a call to attention and elude means to escape from danger. So, either Johnny was ‘alluding to‘ Professor Rory, or he hadn’t done his homework and needed to hightail it, on the double.

Aisle/Isle

The spelling difference is much more noticeable in this one, but the pronunciation is exactly the same, which means that there’s still a high probability of the word ending up on your ‘never-to-repeat-again’ list. Aisle is the passage between rows, usually of a church, a plane or a theatre. Isle is an island. So, a ringing choir of ‘Here Comes The Bride’ might not be required if one is traipsing up the ‘isle’.

Stationary/Stationery

Yes, people do tend to goof up on this one as well. There was a well-known blogger’s gaffe when he embarrassingly referred to Jupiter’s orbit as ‘stationery’. Inevitably, a torrent of comments followed, mostly to the tune of, “Ooh, it better watch out for them sharpened pencils along the way.” Just for the record, stationary means unchanging or fixed, whereas stationery is a writer’s friend and a fifth grader’s worst nemesis.

So that’s that and if you’ve been paying attention, you would have already noticed the word confusions that have (deliberately) been placed. First person to spot both gets the special bumper prize of an inflated ego.


5 comments for now

5 Responses to “Houston, We Have A Word Problem!”

  1. Sid

    I am pretty sure that people who are reading this write-up will definitely puke out their tongue at least once. Most of us have already gone through this particular confusion, but none of us bothered to correct it…why? Well, because people like Mikhil are always there to correct them, isn’t it? Lolzzz….but jokes apart, we should try and evade such confusion as much as possible.

    22 Sep 2011 at 8:37 am

  2. Shalini

    HILARIOUS read, a great piece- well written, you pick the reader up and keep ticking them against the wall and back with those ‘asides’ and they love every bit of it…

    22 Sep 2011 at 8:40 am

  3. sonam

    very common words that all of us must have come across at least once, interesting read and more interesting was to search for the word confusions.

    22 Sep 2011 at 8:50 am

  4. Mikhil

    I forfeit, here goes:

    Weary: showing tiredness (not in keeping with the meaning)
    Wary: a cautious approach (much more suitable)

    Alternately: to occur successively
    Alternatively: situation presenting a choice (notice the ‘or’ before the word :-)

    But, I still managed to get everyone read the blog at least once and in my defeat lies my victory.

    You may now call me ‘Baazigar’

    22 Sep 2011 at 9:07 am

  5. Sid

    You Kkkkkkkk…kkkkkk….clever boy!

    22 Sep 2011 at 9:09 am

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