Confusing Words

We write fast and think more slowly. The words leap ahead of us, and we type what we “hear,” which often misses the bull’s-eye of accuracy.

Here are the ones I’ve noticed lately:

Trooper/trouper
A trooper is a military person or a police officer. We can have a troop of troopers–smaller than a squadron, and often used interchangeably with platoon.

A troupe is a group of performers. “The show must go on” is the rallying cry for performers who are sick or hurt–no matter, they are going to be brave and do what it takes to support the entire cast of the show.

Someone who braves through a lot of pain, effort, emotional upheaval or just plain work to get the project done is a trouper, not a trooper.

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Peak/peek/pique

A visual will help here.

peekPeak is the top of a mountain or the best part of an experience.

Peek is to look or take a quick glance.

Pique (still pronounced ‘peek’ and not ‘pee-kay’) means to stimulate curiosity or interest or to annoy: She was piqued that he did not notice her new dress.

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Uninterested/Disinterested
You know what uninterested means. Disinterested means fair or impartial. You want the jury to be disinterested in your case.

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Flout/flaunt
Flout is to disregard a rule.  Flaunt is to display ostentatiously. “He flouted the rule of how much to spend on the engagement ring so his fiancee could flaunt her ring to all her friends.”

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Alot/allot and their cousins alright and all right
Alot is not a word; it is mistakenly used for a lot.

Allot is to divide or parcel out.

Alright is not a word, even though many people use it. All right is still the correct way to spell it.

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Often when I discuss easily confused words, people tell me “but it’s in the dictionary.” True. Many non-standard, incorrect, and scatological words are in the dictionary, which does not mean they are “right” or should be used. The dictionary is not a judge, but a source of explanations and definitions. In the same way, Google is not an encyclopedia, but a popularity reporter. The first listing (after the ads) is not the most correct, it is the one most often clicked on.

Quinn McDonald loves the evolving English language. She teaches business writing, persuasive writing, technical writing, and grammar. She loves that our language expands to accept new words and then regularly abandons them. (Remember floppy disk?)