Chips vs. fries

North American fries (or French fries) are sticks of fried potato served hot. Outside of North America, namely the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, these fried pieces of potato are called chips. (Side note: a chippy is a place that sells fish and chips.) However, to North Americans chips are thin slices of potato served cold. Everywhere else calls this food crisps. Examples Organizers of an annual french fry feed in Grand Forks say they broke their own record. The event dubbed the … [Read more...]



Grammarist is not a dictionary-approved word. The term for a person who specializes in grammar is a grammarian. As you can see by this n-gram, its usage has dwindled over time. Examples The grammar debate in marketing is not new. The Winston cigarette brand was famously taken to task for “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” Grammarians gave them millions in free publicity by arguing that “Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.” [Forbes] Until recently I thought … [Read more...]

Psychopath vs. sociopath

While there is some debate in the world of psychology, clinically the terms psychopath (or its abbreviation psycho) and sociopath are relatively interchangeable. Both refer to a clinical diagnosis of someone without guilt, who also has violent tendencies and disregard for others and laws. The slang term psycho is used as an insult meaning something or someone is generally crazy. Examples Psychopath-sociopaths are neither wise nor conscientious, because they lack a capacity for empathy and … [Read more...]


A wheelhouse is a structure that encloses a ship's navigation area, also called a pilothouse. The idiom in your wheelhouse means where your greatest strengths lie. In baseball, the wheelhouse of a batter's strike zone that is most likely to hit a home run. Lastly, in the same wheelhouse means in the same category or very similar. Examples "About two dozen marine police officers climbed on our boat, broke into the wheelhouse and forced us to stop when we were about six nautical miles … [Read more...]

Gage, gauge, and gouge

Besides being a surname, a gage is something given as a security of an obligation, such as a glove or hat in a duel. It is also a variant spelling of gauge, though the latter spelling is much more common. Gauge can be an tool that measures and displays the level of something. Or as a verb gauge can be to judge or assess something, to use a gauge, or to stretch something wider, specifically ear lobes. The last definition is not yet entered into the dictionary, but understood … [Read more...]

Garter snake

A harmless North American snake is called a garter snake, not garden snake. Though, technically there is nothing wrong with using that name if you found it in your garden. Examples It turns out that the newts are preyed on by garter snakes that have responded by evolving resistance to the original amounts of poison. [NY Times] Jennifer fell in love for the same reasons teenage girls everywhere do: He pelted her with water balloons. Once, he caught a garter snake and threw it on her. … [Read more...]

Gambol vs. gamble

To gambol is to playfully skip or frolic. It is spelled as gamboling and gamboled inside the US, and makes gambolling and gambolled outside the United States. To gamble is to bet money or take a risky action. It is spelled the same everywhere. Examples Silently we watch them gambol, two extraordinary creatures doing, for them, the ordinary. [The West Australian] Under Christopher Carter Sanderson’s direction, audiences will chase fairies, lovers and rude mechanicals as they gambol … [Read more...]

Affluent vs. effluent

Affluent describes something or someone has having a lot of money. Effluent is the liquid sewage that is released as waste. Effluent is still listed in the dictionary as an adjective meaning flowing out, but the link to chemicals has become so common, a user would risk that connotation. Examples Pupils from the most affluent areas are nearly 10 times more likely to win a place at a leading university than those from the poorest, a new study has revealed. [Daily Mail] Low socio-economic … [Read more...]

Shutter vs. shudder

A shutter is a panel attached to a window that can be closed for privacy. Also, it is the part of a camera that opens to expose light to the film. A person can shutter their windows by closing the shutters. To shudder is to shake or quake, usually as a result of fear or disgust. These words are homophones for some areas, including Southern US. Examples While neither company mentioned "Blackfish" as a contributing factor in terminating the relationship, a petition on urging … [Read more...]


Draconian describes something as very strict or harsh. It comes from the Athenian lawmaker Draco, whose laws were extreme. For example, theft carried the death penalty. Dragonian, on the other hand, refers to dragons. Below is the ngram for draconian, which has been on a steady rise for the past fifty years. Examples They point to Ryan’s case as a miscarriage of justice, the result of an overzealous prosecutor stretching the law and imposing a draconian sentence given Ryan’s … [Read more...]

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