There are things that we often confuse like crocodiles and alligators (at the same time, they look awfully similar) and that doesn’t really handicap us on a daily basis because it’s quite rare to come across alligators at Leclerc or in the bus. On the other hand, it is immediately more difficult to confuse words. Already, because our interlocutor could not understand anything but especially because we risk to pass for a moron (and it is never pleasant). To set the record straight, here is the non-exhaustive list of words that we must stop confusing.
1. Prodigy / Prodigal
A person called “prodigy” is a miraculously gifted person like good old Mozart for example, nothing to do with prodigal therefore. When we say “the return of the prodigal son”, we are talking about someone who returns to his family after having spent all his money. In the Gospels, the prodigal son is welcomed with kindness by his family but in reality, your father judges you and you become the disappointment of your parents.
2. Poisonous / Venomous
An organism is said to be poisonous when it secretes venom and injects it into its prey, so it is an animal. When we speak of something poisonous, it is that it is toxic when ingested or in direct contact, so it is rather plants and fungi that are poisonous. Afterwards, some animals can be poisonous because they concentrate toxins in their bodies that they have ingested. Either way, it’s toxic so don’t touch it.
3. Incident / Accident
An accident is an unforeseeable event that happens by chance and changes the course of things. This word has a negative connotation but an accident can be happy (like when your mother realized she was pregnant with you). An incident is a minor event that disrupts the course of a day. It can have consequences but is never serious in itself. Unlike the accident, the incident is not necessarily linked to chance, like when your kid has a crisis at the supermarket.
4. Immoral / Amoral
In the French language, the prefix -a means “without” while -in or -im means “contrary to”. When we know this, we understand that amoral means “which has nothing to do with morality” while immoral means “which is contrary to morality). For example, science is amoral according to Descartes, so it has no relation to morality.
5. To Intent/Attention
When you write a letter, you should always write “To the attention of” I don’t know who (the principal of the school to beg him not to exclude your kid for example). When we say “for the intention”, it means that we organize something in honor of someone, it can be a birthday party (fun) or the last meal of a convict (less fun).
6. Croak / Croak
Anh the shame, he confuses croaks and croaks! In fact, the croaking is the cry of the frog while the croaking is that of the crow. Moreover, if we listen to them type the discussion, the frog rather says “COAC COAC” while the crow is team “CROAA CROAA”. That’s all for me.
7. Breakout / Eruption
So okay, these two words sound alike but they really have nothing to do. To burst into a room is to arrive with a bang and without warning anyone, whereas an eruption, well, it’s just a typical thing for volcanoes and acne pimples. Afterwards, it is true that it also happens without warning.
8. Award / Discern
If you ever present the Oscars, you’re not going to discern a prize, oh no. You are going to award a prize (otherwise everyone will laugh in your face and you will leave crying). To discern means to make discernment: to realize the nature of someone, to understand what surrounds us…
9. Unsocial / Associable / Unsociable
To talk about a shy person, lacking in self-confidence and who has trouble adapting in society, you never know what word to use. According to the Larousse dictionary, asocial is the correct term. Word sociable does not exist but we are talking about asociability for someone who cannot adapt to social life. Word unsociable is a synonym for antisocial and refers to someone who is not sociable. Associablewith two -s, means “something that can be associated” and therefore has nothing to do.
10. Burglary / Violation
Breaking into somewhere means that something has been broken in order to gain entry (a door, a window or a fence, for example). This action is indeed an infraction because an infraction is the transgression of a rule which is therefore punishable by law. There are three types of offences: tickets, misdemeanors and felonies. Breaking and entering is considered a misdemeanor (still following?).
11. Conjuncture / Conjecture
Here are two complicated words that sound alike. To put it simply, a conjecture is a situation / a context (we are talking about the current conjuncture in a period of confinement) while a conjecture is a hypothesis / a supposition.
12. Understanding / Understandable
These two words are two adjectives of the same family but they do not mean the same thing at all. If you are understandable or what you say is understandable, it means that we understand what you say. On the other hand, if you are understanding, it means that you understand and that you show empathy, you agree to forgive.
13. Sketch / Dodge
So here we are on two words that have absolutely nothing to do. When you sketch, you are starting something. It can be a drawing (a sketch, therefore) or a smile for example. Dodging means successfully avoiding.
14. Lush / Luxurious
These two adjectives are often confused and this can cause problems in understanding. Indeed, luxuriant means “that grows in abundance” so we generally speak of vegetation. On the other hand, luxurious comes from the word lust and means “who gives himself up without restraint to sexual pleasures”. Not the same madness.
15. Circumcise / Circumscribe
Circumscribing means “setting limits”. And then circumcise, it really has nothing to do. If you tell your stepfather you want to circumcise his garden, he might give you a really weird look.