Lexical Vexations

There are some English words that seem to have been designed just to vex us. These are words that sound similar and often look similar to one another. Sometimes these words have closely related but different meanings and other times their meanings are worlds apart.

I’ve created these Lexical Vexation entries to help you tease apart these tricky sets of words so you can use them with confidence.

Is there a lexical vexation troubling you that you don’t see here? Please feel free to let me know and I’ll create an entry for it.

13 Replies to “Lexical Vexations”

  1. Thanks for the vexations! I love this list. Got one today from the boss: Wait vs. Weight. Thanks for the list!

  2. Stumbled across this page and LOVE it! I did note that “their,” “there,” and “they’re” are missing. That one drives me nuts, and lately I’ve been seeing a lot of folks inserting apostrophes to somehow make a noun plural (WTH is up with THAT?).

  3. Hi Susan,

    Thanks for the terrific suggestion. Its and it’s are a dreadfully vexatious pair. I’ve added this vexation to the blog, and you can now find it at http://the-word-blog.com/2012/01/21/its-vs-its/.

    And apologies for my tardy response…all I can say is it’s been a zany couple of months in these parts!

    All the best,

  4. You’ve gotta add its vs it’s. People think it is it’s (something that belongs to it) because the ‘ denotes the possessive … but it is not – it’s is only used for contraction of it is. Its is something belonging to it, just like his and hers, it’s its.

  5. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the suggestion. Discreet vs. Discreet is a good one – I often see these two words confused. I actually did this vexation a little while back, but somehow forgot to add it to the list above. I’ll add it there next, but in the meantime you can find it at this link: http://the-word-blog.com/2009/12/29/discreet-vs-discrete/.

    Thanks for reading,

  6. Please add “Then vs Than”
    Then refers to a time element; Than is used in a comparative sense.

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