Miss Spelling and Tricky Words

Today is Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find. As a matter of fact, I turned a corner and ran into my favorite vocabulary teacher, Miss Spelling. I convinced her to share another lesson with us regarding words that are commonly misspelled. Welcome back, Miss Spelling!

school-teacher-makeoverThanks for the invitation. Since I was last here, I’ve been researching some icky, sticky, tricky words. You know, those words that somehow stick in language as being spelled one way when in fact they are spelled a different way. What do I mean? I shall point a few examples today and help everyone learn the correct spellings.

Chomping champing at the bit. “Chomping at the bit” is not literally wrong because you can find reputable sources defending its usage. However, the original saying, and thus preferred spelling, is “champing at the bit.” Champing is biting or chewing noisily, so this phrase refers to a horse biting on the bit in its mouth, eager to go. If you are in conversation, chomping is probably fine. However, if you are writing this phrase into an essay or novel, go with champing.

Peaks piques interest. I have mentioned this word confusion before. However, it bears repeating because it is one of those mistakes that has been particularly sticky in common usage. Your interest may peak at some point–meaning it reaches its climax. But what one usually means with this phrase is that your interest has piqued–pique meaning to excite or to arouse.

For all intensive purposes intents and purposes. When said quickly, “intents and purposes” may sound much like “intensive purposes.” Surely, this was the impetus for the mix-up. However, the meaning of this phrase is for any and all reasons–described as “intents and purposes.” What exactly would an intensive purpose be anyway?

Heighth height. One might assume that if it’s length and width, then surely it must be heighth. No, indeed. There is no “h” in height. Toss out that extra letter, and punctuate that final “t.” Then you’ll have the correct word: “height.”

With baited bated breath. Unless you have placed a fishing lure on your oxygen supply, your breath is not baited. The word bate is not commonly used except with this idiom. Thus, many people assume that it is the more common word, bait. However, to bate means to restrain; thus, the phrase “with bated breath.”

That’s it today! A short class, and you all did beautifully!

Thanks, Miss Spelling! We’ll be sure to keep those icky, sticky, tricky words in mind.

Have you had trouble with these words or phrases? What words do have difficulty remembering how to spell?

17 thoughts on “Miss Spelling and Tricky Words

  1. Break out the ruler, Miss Spelling.

    The word that tripped me up was champing.

    If I have to be honest [a bit out of character for creatively sneaky me], the red squiggly line on MSWord saved me so often on height, it’s now a lesson drilled deep into my noggin.

    Yes. I know some of the above may have been proper as hyphenated run-ons. I chose not to choose which ones.

    Feel free to enlighten me in your response, Julie.

    1. Oh! On the front of which words I have trouble with, it’s odd. I know when to use its versus it’s. I know there, their, and they’re. I know your versus you’re. It’s second nature to spot them. A no-brainer.

      But, I often misuse them when I’m fast drafting.

      No. I have no clue why I do that. AHA! The answer may lie (????) in no-brainer..

      1. Here’s my take on the grammar thing: I don’t really care until someone PUBLISHES it. Once you put something out a professional publication (be it billboard, restaurant menu, flyer, article, or novel), it should be readable and correct.

        First drafts? We all know they suck. Don’t sweat the apostrophe, Gloria. At that level, we just need to worry about getting the story down. 🙂

    2. No enlightening required. 😉

      That “champing” will get you every time. I remember the first time I saw that and exclaimed, “We’re all wrong!” It does make far more sense as “champing.”

  2. OMG, Julie, this is priceless. You know why? In a line in one of the first three chapters of the book I’m working on I wrote about how authors wait with “baited breath” and I make a reference to fishing and using a hook. And that’s wrong! I never knew. It’s something that thankfully I can change!

  3. Champing surprised me. I learn something new every day.

    If you’re taking requests, I’d like to see a piece on “mutually exclusive.” I wanted to use this in writing a few weeks ago but chickened out after reading about it online. I wasn’t sure of the meaning.

  4. OMG. I have heard of all of these before and they all make me cringe, except for chomping/champing. That one just looks and sounds wrong. I know it’s right, but that’s why I don’t use that word, because it’s weird.

    And I once judged a writing contest where someone used mid rift to describe a woman’s mid section (midriff). I laughed out loud.

    Thanks for the fun stuff.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. Seems like chomping at the bit tricked a lot of people, me included. What messes me up is all right and alright.

    Thanks for the helpful post

  6. I DEFINITELY didn’t know the first one. And I think I forgot about the second one. It really bugs me when people say “heighth.” I’ll have to print this out and hand it around. 🙂

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