Ten Words That Give Us Pause

The English language has many words that sound similar, or are spelled the same, but have different meanings. Some are close to sounding right, but they may be the wrong one. Some are just a problem to spell correctly.

Here are some that many people get mixed up or misuse.

  1. rapt/wrapped

You may be rapt in thought (engrossed, or enRAPTured by an idea),  but a gift is wrapped.

2. rack/wrack

You can pretty much forget about wrack. It’s an old leftover from wreck. You may see it used in the expression wrack and ruin, but for everything else, use rack. You can rack your brain to figure out why that is.

3. languid/limpid

A stream can be limpid (clear and calm), but that does not mean it is limp or listless.

Languid, on the other hand, is used to mean limp and listless.

4. kindergarten (NOT kindergarden).

It comes from the German words for children (Kinder) and garden (Garten). A child going to kindergarten is called a kindergartner.

5. jamb/jam

The side of the door frame is a jamb.  It comes from the French word jambe, for leg.

A sweet spread for toast is jam.

6. forego/forgo

Forego means to precede (to come before). Forgo means to do without something.

7. flora/fauna

Many people use these words together without knowing that flora refers to plants while fauna refers to animals.

8. florescent/fluorescent

Florescent means to be in flower, while fluorescent means radiating light.

9. better/bettor

Better is an improvement, while bettor is one who places a bet.

10. bandanna/banana

She took off her bandanna to eat her banana.




24 thoughts on “Ten Words That Give Us Pause

      • Very complicated, so it’s no wonder that English is difficult for speakers of other languages have difficulty learning the twisted map of English. I have considered learning Spanish but need to have one-on-one teaching to learn better… Should I give it a go? Spanish is so frequently heard as I go through the day. No surprise though, look at our southern border. 😭

        Liked by 1 person

      • Before we went to Baja the first time for our holiday, I took a local college course on Spanish and it was one of the best things I’ve done. It made such a difference as we traveled through Spanish-speaking areas. I’ve never regretted learning it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That was good thinking, Anneli! Because I am so annoyed with our ignorant government that refuses to stop the illegal entries, I am biased against the language if that makes sense…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love the language and really enjoyed being able to interact with people in a more meaningful way, but I don’t agree with a completely open border and all the grief it brings with it both for the invaded country and for the unfortunate people who suffer to come there. The immigration laws that were there to protect both sides have been broken and that’s not a good thing. Still, we should not take that out on the people nor hold it against them that they speak a different language. I love the Spanish language and knowing it has enriched my experiences.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I do not hate the folks, I simply want them to get here legally. Obviously, the Mexican government doesn’t care about this and may turn a blind eye to it. I find it difficult to feel glad to have these people here because I can’t tell who is here legally and who is not. They come from most of, if not all of the South American countries. Many of us have the same thoights, Anneli. If you are not here legally, get the hell out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you, John. There is no reason to have illegal immigration. I have no problem with people following the rules and being welcomed to a new country. Often, they make the best citizens because they are so glad to be here. But it should be done legally.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. But I like “wrack.” Lol. Do I really have to get rid of it?
    And a couple of these made me sit up and take notice… Anneli. Especially forego and forgo, fluorescent and florescent (which Grammarly is telling me isn’t a word – to add to the confusion). Eeep.


    • Okay, here’s something I found on rack/wrack. Use wrack for meanings such as “to utterly ruin,” and rack for “to cause to suffer torture, pain, anguish, or ruin.”
      I think The Ferryman and the Sea Witch is the perfect place to use wrack throughout (unless they put someone on the rack to torture them….)
      Florescent surprised me too, but it is in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

      Liked by 1 person

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