We all make mistakes in our daily speech and writing. Sometimes mistakes are even made for us — as with autocorrect-mangled emails and text. Even people who reach the top of their fields use words incorrectly, mispronounce them, or even invent their own.
One former Washington resident, President George W. Bush, was so well known for this he inspired a word himself — Bushisms. Even when he used words correctly he sometimes mispronounced them. Like Homer Simpson, he said “nucular” instead of “nuclear.” Yogi Berra was also famous for saying odd things, which became known as Yogi-isms. Not all of these were unique to him. For example, people sometimes confuse learn and teach, as Yogi did when he said, “Bill Dickey is learning me his experience.”
Most of the entries on our list are pairs of words that are frequently confused. Many are homophones — words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings, such as compliment and complement.
There are also words we get wrong because they are closely associated. Congress meets in the United States Capitol, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. The Capitol is located in the United States capital, Washington, D.C. — and people often mix up the two.
We shouldn’t be too judgmental, though. Words evolve and take on new meanings and are used differently in different places. Technology is accelerating the pace of change. The word “smartphone” hasn’t been around for long, and it has given new meaning to the word “text,” which brings us back to another word of recent origin, “autocorrect.”
To compile a list of words people often use incorrectly, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed numerous articles on the subject as well as style guides and dictionaries.