Sweeped or swept

To sweep is to move quickly or to use a broom to move something such as dust. In sporting, especially American baseball, a team can sweep a series of games with an opponent by winning each one. The past tense and the past participle have the same spelling: swept. Unlike leap and bless, this word does not have a less common variation. Sweeped is not a dictionary-recognized word. Some less reputable online dictionaries list it as an obsolete past tense of sweep. If so, it has been obsolete … [Read more...]

Helter skelter or helter-skelter

As a noun, adjective, and adverb, this term is spelled the same way: helter-skelter. It means to be disorderly, confused, hurried, or haphazard. Outside of the United States, the noun form can be used as a name for a certain kind of amusement park ride that twists and turns around a tower. Helter skelter, without a hyphen, is often used for the title of songs, books, or movies. The exact origin of the term is unknown but it dates from the late sixteenth century. Examples The backdrop … [Read more...]

Apocryphal vs canonical

Apocryphal is an adjective used to describe something, usually a text or tale, as being widely known and most likely untrue. The origins of such works are usually in doubt or completely unknown. The adverb form is apocryphally. The noun form is apocrypha. The term is not capitalized unless it is discussing specific works that have been excluded from the Bible. Those works are part of the Apocrypha and are Apocryphal. Other texts can be Apocryphal if they resemble these specific … [Read more...]

Boondocks vs boonies

Boondocks is a plural noun, with no singular form, that means an extremely rural area, usually without many of the conveniences of a metropolitan city. It can also be a landscape with harsh terrain and lots of dense foliage. The term is most often found in the phrase in the boondocks or out in the boondocks. Boondocks comes from the Tagalog language, specifically bundok, which means mountain. The term is found most often in the United States, but is gaining ground in other countries as … [Read more...]


Astride is an adverb that describes a verb has having been accomplished with legs spread apart, or one leg on either side of something. One can stand or ride a horse astride. The word can also act as a preposition where it adds another definition. It can mean to spread across something. A good synonym is span or bridge. This term is mostly associated with horses, and often the phrase legs apart would be clearer. Examples How big is the blind spot that allows you to occupy seats of such … [Read more...]

Brief vs debrief

Brief can be a noun, an adjective, or a verb, and all have different meanings. The noun form is a set of legal documents or a set of specific instructions. The adjective form means to be short in duration or size. The verb form means the act of giving instructions or, especially in military settings, the act of talking about matters in a meeting known as a briefing. It is also used in legal settings outside the United States as the act of instructing a barrister (lawyer) by a … [Read more...]

All American or all-American

All-American, spelled with a hyphen, is an adjective to describe something or someone as having the general qualities associated with being from the United States of America. This can also be a title given to someone or something that is chosen or voted to be the best in America. A variant of this term is all-America; however, this variant is almost exclusively tied to the athletic designation. This term can also be a noun for someone or something that typifies the United States or has been … [Read more...]


Comeuppance is a noun meaning a consequence or result of a merited action. Sometimes we call this one's just deserts. The plural for this noun is comeuppances. Caution should be observed when using the plural. It does not suggest two punishments for the same person, but two different (though fitting) consequences for two different people. It was coined in the middle of the nineteenth century as a version of  a phrase come-up-ance, or the act of coming up in front of a judge to be … [Read more...]

Conceded or conceited

To concede something is to give in or stop protesting it. A loser concedes victory to the winner by surrendering. In a debate, one side may concede a point in the argument, or in other words, admit that the other side is correct in that point. The past tense of this word is conceded. It should be noted that the e in this word is pronounced with the long e sound. Also, this word is commonly misspelled and should not have two e's (as in succeed). Conceit is a mass noun that means to be overly … [Read more...]

Bent or bended

To bend something is to make a curve become straight or a straight line become a curve, either with a material or one's body. The past tense of this verb is bent. Bended is the archaic past tense of bend. Currently it is mainly used in the phrase on bended knee. This phrase means to be kneeling, usually in front of someone to ask either forgiveness or to propose getting married. Outside of usage in that specific phrase, bended is an error and bent should be used. The phrase on bent … [Read more...]

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