April 10, 2018 | Leave a comment

We all have certain words that we think of as antagonists. We either can’t remember exactly how to spell them or we can’t remember their exact meaning—confusing them with similar looking or sounding words.

Starting around high school, and then for many years afterwards, I found myself doing battle with tenant versus tenet. This was most prevalent when I started writing philosophy essays in university. (I seemed to write about tenets a lot back then; about tenants, not so much.) I would often pick the wrong one. Even when I chose the correct one, I would spell it ‘tenent’ and then have to correct myself.

Thirty years later, I finally have those two words under control—although I still hesitate slightly whenever I use one of them.

There are others I still fumble over. Words like diarrhea (or, worse, the British variation—which is technically preferred in Canada: diarrhoea). Even now, I can’t spell it correctly. I end up typing something close and then clicking on the underlined mess to let my application correct it. Thankfully, it’s a word I don’t have to type very often.

I have no problem with counsellor versus councillor, evoke versus invoke, or allusion versus illusion (to name but a few). I have no idea why I can easily distinguish and spell many such words, but not a few others that, objectively, would seem no less difficult.

I know there are some more that have me sighing when I encounter them. Strangely, I can’t think of them off the top of my head. But they are like old-time foes. When I encounter them, I sigh and say to myself, “Oh, it’s you again . . .”