Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find. Recently, I learned from author Piper Bayard what words might trigger the Department of Homeland Security to monitor our social media.
After reading such unusual choices as “cloud” and “delays,” I decided to click over to the original source Piper had listed. The DHS Security Analyst’s Desktop Binder includes terms one should watch out for, sorted by category. The categories include Domestic Security, HAZMAT & Nuclear, and Terrorism.
But one of them is Weather/Disaster/Emergency. And reading the list, I found a slight problem:
On one hand, no big deal. Plenty of people misspell lightning (no e).
However, I began to wonder: Is our national security compromised somehow by a spelling error? Might we mistakenly declare a disastrous weather event if perhaps several people start tweeting about how their lamps are effectively lightening their rooms? Could catastrophe occur because a DHS security analyst is spending his time searching for the term lightening and completely missing a slew of lightning that could cause real damage?
Okay, fine. I’m a little OCD on stuff like this.
But it did perplex me that the people who managed to spell such things as “National Biosurveillance Integration Center” and “Viral Hemorrhagic Fever” managed to get lightning wrong.
But that’s the way it goes. There are errors so commonly made that it’s hard to even see them or worry about them. I swear that I misspell perseverance 99 out of 100 times that I type it.
So my suggestion is that with such tricky words, we simply double-check. One certainly doesn’t want our national security compromised due to a spelling error! Of course, I doubt that you’ve got so much riding on your spelling. But hey, maybe you do! Who am I to say?!
Here are a few commonly confused words to look out for:
Affect (to influence; to change) vs. effect (the result of a change)
Complement (to complete or enhance) vs. compliment (an expression of esteem or affection)
Defuse (to make less harmful or tense) vs. diffuse (to spread out)
Desert (arid land with sparse vegetation) vs. dessert (dish usually served at the end of a meal)
Pour (to cause to flow in a stream) vs. pore (to read or study attentively)
Principal (most important or consequential) vs. principle (fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption)
Lightening (making clearer or lighter) vs. lightning (flash of light from discharge of atmospheric electricity)
Stationary (immobile, static) vs. stationery (materials for writing or typing)
What words do you struggle to spell correct? Or get confused with another word? Do you think our national security has been compromised by a spelling error?