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A short while ago I wrote a column on words we always mix up with other words, where I drew shoddy pictures of things like Superboy being shot out of a Superman-shaped cannon. This completely made sense in the context of the article.

Since everyone knows online humor columns by obscure writers are extremely effective in changing society, I'm sure misuse of those words is no longer a problem. However, there are still a lot of other rogue (not rouge) words out there mixing with their homophonic or lookalike cousins and wreaking (not reeking) havoc on news articles, blogs, and forums everywhere. Words like ...

Regimen/Regiment


Members of the 401st Exercise Regiment on duty.

A "regimen" is a routine or course of treatment for improving health, while a "regiment" is a military unit. While regiments do get a lot of exercise, that isn't their sole duty, or at least if it is, I'm going to write a sternly worded letter to my Congressman about where my taxes are going.

The Charlotte Observer

There has been a lot of controversy over how much college football coaches are paid, and I know there are points to be made for both sides, but when you can afford to have an entire military regiment train with you daily, that seems like it might cross a line.

The Lakeland Ledger

This seems like dangerous advice. I have a feeling military types might be kind of prickly about being stalked.

Weary/Wary


Always be weary of danger. It makes you look cool.

"Wary" means cautious, you know, like the ware in "beware." "Weary," on the other hand, means tired. So this person...

The Social Marketing Project

...was somehow sick of blogging before she even started. But I guess she stopped being tired of it after she started, so perhaps she lives backwards through time like T.H. White's Merlyn.

Meanwhile, these teams are fucking sick of playing each other.

Sky News Australia

And this one actually makes a little bit of sense:

Yahoo Sports

He might very well be weary of the Giants. My fiance (only one "e" for a man apparently) is a Philly fan living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I've noticed he is almost homicidally tired of hearing about the Giants winning the World Series. Hey, Mike!

Getty

Ha ha! All in good fun! Moving on.

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Epitaph/Epithet


Racial epitaphs.

An epithet is a descriptive word or phrase, and is usually used to mean a negative one, like "asshole" or "Raiders fan." News articles have to use the phrase "racial epithet" a lot to describe words they can't print in their family paper and that I can't type in this column.

An epitaph on the other hand, is something written about you when you are dead, most likely on your gravestone. When they get mixed up, racism becomes very morbid.

FoxNews.com

Pasternak, who is white, won a civil suit alleging racial discrimination. I assume he had been harassed by co-workers shouting: "Stupid polack, taken too soon" and, "Dumbass cracker touched the lives of many."

Helena Independent Record

He just out of nowhere started screaming "Calvin Running Bear Higgins, beloved husband and father!" and "Janice Hungry Wolf, an inspiration to all!" at random people at the party. Kind of creepy.

The Chattanoogan.com

Here is that cinder block:

Per Se/Per Say

"Per se" is a Latin term meaning "in itself" or "by itself." For example: "I'm not calling my neighbor a crazy cat lady because of the high number of cats she owns per se, but because her kitchen is six inches deep in cat poop and she sits on the porch with a rifle taking potshots at animal control whenever they try to visit."

Getty
"Also I'm a little worried there might be something sexual going on."

"Per say," while being made of two legitimate English words, is not really a meaningful phrase, but I guess it could mean something that happens upon each "say." As a noun, "say" means an opinion, or an opportunity or turn to speak.


I wouldn't mind politicians being charged "per say."

So these athletes:

FoxSportsWest.com

are apparently seen by some (but not Butler) as being in a one-on-one verbal battle, where each line counts as one round of the fight. Despite his strong reliance on "yo mama" jokes, Butler feels people are familiar enough with his varied repertoire of one-liners that he won't be typecast in the future as a one-note comic.

AdamCarolla.com
Be careful, dude, you don't want to go down this path.

OK, so a simple misspelling is no big deal, but even overlooking the bad spelling, it's clear most people wouldn't even know how to use "per se" if the spellchecker handed it to them corrected. Like many Latin terms, people seem to feel entitled to use it to mean whatever they need a word for, in the same ways the Smurfs use the word "smurf."

Apparently sometimes people think it means "so to speak":

News10.net

And some people think it means "for example" (probably confusing it with "let's say"):

GameDev.net

And some people think it means "exactly" or "actually":

Avast! Forum

So sure, why not. Let's just per se the term per se for whatever per se we per se. That's smurfy.

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Principal/Principle


"This! This, my friends, is what we are fighting for!"

A principle is a basic truth or a guiding belief, and a principal is a dude that runs a school. These are very different things, so you'd think we could easily tell them apart, but no.

Pakistan Christian TV

Well, of course not. If our political system was based on principals, our top issues would be "gum control", the right to skateboard on government property, and whether you have to wear a flag pin to prove you've got "spirit". Also, criminals would only have to go to jail for an hour after work. But they would have to call their parents.

USA Today

It really is the basic principals that make sense to us simple folk. All those newfangled experimenting principals with their "magnet programs" and acronyms and "cooperative classroom designs" and having Jamie Oliver come in and cook healthy lunches - they are just confusing the hell out of our average American brains.

Fox5Vegas.com

This is just mean. No matter how much you need to have your voice heard, this isn't the right way to do it.

"Principal" has some other meanings, one of which is "a sum of money." Standing on that would be a little kinder than standing on a school principal, but I think you might send some mixed messages.

Hanger/Hangar

OK, so you know what a hanger is. It is, as the name implies, something to hang things on. Like so:

Getty

So here's a really confusing news story. It starts out like this:

Boston.com

What? Environmental approval? Why?

Boston.com

Well, yeah, it's just a fucking coat hanger.

Boston.com

OK, that is a big coat hanger.

Obviously they meant "hangar," which is something airplanes are stored in. I guess you could store an airplane on a hanger too but it would need to be reaallllly big.


What do you supposed the hangers are hanging on?

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Tack/Tact

"Tact" means the ability to sense what's OK to say in a social context, like checking the racial makeup in a room before you start making minstrel jokes. A "tack" is a pin for putting posters on walls, or gear for riding horses, or - and this is where it gets mixed up with tact - a way to change direction in sailing.

A sailor who is heading straight into a kraken's mouth might try "a different tack," to steer himself toward a not-kraken's-mouth somewhere. Somehow, people everywhere keep thinking the expression is "a different tact", possibly because they think "tact" is short for "tactic," and "a different tactic" makes sense. And a lot of the time, they're trying to fix a communication problem, so the word "tact" seems like it would be connected to fixing that somehow.

And that's why you get this everywhere:

The Huffington Post

The Montgomery Advertiser

Though that's the most common mixup of these words, it's a lot more fun the other way.

Fangoria comments

I like to think this poster is asking any critics of the actress to show their manhood, and at the same time implying it will be very small.

LinksysInfo.org

I guess it is like some kind of secret token you have to show to be accepted on that forum.


"That tack is much too big! You're an impostor!"

Bare/Bear


This bear is bare.

I would never dream of insulting you by explaining the difference between bare and bear. Third graders know this. Nevertheless, people mix them up all the damn time.

Take this story on an elementary school:

Pacific Daily News

That just seems really inappropriate.

The Hattiesburg American

That seems like a subtle threat that employees who don't strip for their bosses might get fired. That is also inappropriate.

TVNZ.co.nz

Clearly these three athletes are so well-endowed that if they were to strip at the same time, the world's eyes would explode.

Vanity Fair
Even the top halves of soccer players are pretty dangerous.

The Albany Herald

Yeah, it's hard enough to get a regular passenger to agree to a strip search, so I'm pretty sure a terrorist carrying an actual bomb would be hanging onto his clothes like a madman.

The Irish Independent

This mixup goes the other way and seems to imply that Ireland requires a certain number of bears in its government at all times.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I can understand not letting women show breasts in public, but not letting them even carry them out of the house, I mean, how would that even work? He knows they are not detachable, right?

So yeah, type safe out there, kids, or next thing you know you'll be trying to remove women's boobs or follow a regiment back to base, and that never turns out well.

For more from Chrstina, check out The 6 Biggest Badasses Who Lived As The Opposite Sex and The 6 Most Statistically Full of Shit Professions.

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