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 … [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 … [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 … [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 … [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 … [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 … [Read more...]

Chalk up vs. chock

Chalk up is an idiom meaning to give credit to something or to attain something. It comes from the literal act in the 16th century of writing in chalk a debt that was owed to a store. A chock is a wooden block used beneath wheels to prevent movement. Chock-full means completely full. It is … [Read more...]

Minks vs. minx

A mink is a weasel-like carnivore native to North America, known for its lustrous fur. The plural form is minks. A minx is a promiscuous, impudent, or flirtatious young woman who causes trouble. The term carries a sexist connotation.  Examples The American mink was first introduced to … [Read more...]

Battle royal

A battle involving many fighters can be called a battle royal. It is not spelled battle royale unless you are specifically referencing a book, game, or movie by that name. The plural form can be either battle royals or battles royal. History Battles royal were common in England in the 17th and … [Read more...]

Udder vs. utter

An udder is a mammary organ that secretes milk, characteristic of cows and other mammals. Utter is an adjective describing something as complete or absolute.  Utter is also a verb meaning to speak or to put forged money into circulation.   Examples A team of volunteers from Gosford … [Read more...]

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