8 Words You're Confusing With Other Words

Everyone spells words wrong or screws up their grammar from time to time, and when you suggest a perfectly reasonable solution like prison, or the electric chair, suddenly you are a "grammar Nazi" who makes a fuss over "technicalities" when everyone knows damn well what they meant to say.

And you know what, if people are going to spell "receive" wrong or complain about "hypocrasy," OK, whatever, it's pretty obvious what they're getting at. But sometimes they're not just spelling a word wrong, but replacing it with an existing word, with its own definition, creating an entirely different sentence with a new meaning. And if the new meaning is funny, it is a travesty, a travesty I say, if nobody is there to appreciate and laugh at it.

Here's some all-too-common mix-ups for you to spot, so you can be sure to be the laugher and not the laughee.


This man WAS phased.

So here's the deal: When people are looking for the word "faze," they almost always seem to end up using the word "phase." "Faze" means to disturb or throw for a loop, like, "The fact that his girlfriend turned out to be a man did not faze Brian."

"Phase" is normally used as a noun, like, "Brian's interest in women turned out to just be a passing phase anyway." But it can be used as a verb, meaning to synchronize, or to schedule in phases, like, "Brian phased the delivery of Astroglide to his home so that his supply would peak when his companion moved in."

Even news sites make this mistake pretty often.

Toronto Entertainment News Examiner

In the snippet above, you can see that Katy Perry's outburst didn't schedule a classmate in chunks.

Fox 5 News Vegas

Also, in sci-fi/fantasy settings, it can mean to travel between dimensions or planes or something. I guess the snubs of Republican Kirk Lippold's party leaders failed to reach the energy threshold required to banish him to another dimension.

Chattanooga Times Free Press

Dave Bruzza also failed in his attempts to escape the material plane before the rain started.


This person, I think, might have just been typing drunk.


A horde of cash.

"Horde" means a large group of people or animals, like a horde of orcs or Vikings or immigrants. "Hoard" means a stash of treasure, or in verb form, to stash your treasure. A dragon's hoard is something everyone wants to stumble on, while a dragon's horde is something no one wants to encounter.

I think this is one of those where more people might actually get it wrong than get it right. Like the Wall Street Journal here:

The Wall Street Journal

You can't use "horde" as a verb at all so it just doesn't make sense, and that isn't really funny, but I just put this here because nanny nanny boo boo Wall Street Journal. And here we have the aforementioned cash hordes:

The Aspen Times

Money Morning

Which, as you can see in the above cartoon, aren't really threatening so much as kind of cute.


"Reign" is the rulership of a monarch or other leader. "Reins" are the strings you pull to make a horse do things. Most people know the difference until they have to use them in an expression, and then everything goes haywire.

The Scottish Daily Record

The biggest confusion comes with "free rein," which means letting someone do what they want, and comes from an equestrian term where you let go of the "rein" and let the horse do what he wants -- which in my experience, is usually to eat grass or poop. Similarly, when you're getting tired of his shenanigans, you "rein him in."

You go, "Hey, buddy -- enough with the pooping."

But it seems like everyone in the entire world, for some reason, keeps saying "free reign," which doesn't even make any sense. On the surface it seems to, because you're thinking, a king or queen can do whatever they want. All you need to say is "reign" then. Why add a "free"? Any time people add an adjective to "reign," it refers to the period of time the king or queen rules. A "bloody" reign, a "long" reign, an "uneventful" reign. You might as well talk about giving someone "free era." What does that even mean?

Language nerds are always getting into fights over this, with a lot of people arguing that English is a living language, blah, blah, blah, and if something is used commonly enough then it becomes official. Sure, fine, maybe we'll consider this official someday, but just because it's accepted doesn't mean it's not wrong and stupid.

The San Jose Mercury News



The Christian Science Monitor


OK, I guess this one pushes some buttons apparently.


Star Wars: The Old Republic Community

Mixing up "cannon" (the weapon) and "canon" (official laws/history/body of work) is usually only done by nerds, because only nerds (and theologians, I guess) get worked up about whether something is "canon." Regardless, when it happens, it is very, very funny.

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