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Sow, sew, or sough?

Words that look the same, or which might sound the same but have different spelling or meanings can be confusing, so how do we handle words like sow, sew and sough?

In this case, sow can have different meanings and different pronunciations, though it’s spelt the same way. As a noun, a sow is a female pig and is pronounced to rhyme with words such as now, how, and cow. If used as a verb, it means to plant seeds in the ground, and it’s pronounced to rhyme with words such as hoe, grow, and low.

pig

Examples:

The pig farmer separated the sow from her piglets.

The farmer went out to sow the seeds in the field.

 

Sew means to stitch a garment or fabric, and is pronounced to rhyme with words such as hoe, grow, and low.

cotton

Example:

With the price of store-bought clothing so low, people seldom sew clothes at home anymore.

 

Sough can be used as a noun or as an intransitive verb. The noun means a rustling sound, and the verb means to rustle. The pronunciation is a bit troublesome, though. As far as I’m aware, both are pronounced to rhyme with how, now, and cow, but I have heard the word pronounced to rhyme with hoe, grow, and low, and also to rhyme with words like enough. Any opinions on the correct pronunciation are most welcome!

tree 2

Examples:

In the early morning at the top of the hill you can the sea breeze sough (verb) through the trees.

The gentle sough (noun) of the wind through the trees reminds me of the murmur of water over pebbles.

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Far be it from me or far be it for me?

Which is correct: far be it from me, or far be it for me, and what does the saying mean?

Far be it from me is actually correct, and it’s usually followed by ‘but’. It means the equivalent of ‘God forbid that …’ or ‘Don’t let me try to tell you …’ and is used in a self-deprecatory way.

Examples:

Far be it from me to tell you how to run your life, but do you really think you’re making the right decision?

Far be it from me to advise you on which lawn mower to buy, but do you think that’s the best choice for your garden?

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Further or farther?

Have you ever wondered about the difference between these two words?

Both further and farther refer to distance. Further is more commonly used in a figurative sense, whereas farther is used in a more literal sense to refer to an actual distance.

Examples:

The farther they went from the town, the denser the woods became.

The thief stole whenever he could to further his own ends.

Farther and farther they travelled, until ‘home’ was but blip on the distant horizon.

Further to this, I have nothing more to say.’

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Taser or tazer?

Have you ever wondered whether it should be taser or tazer? At first appearance it looks like this could be one of those differences in the spelling of English in different regions of the world, but it’s not.
TASER is actually an acronym and it stands for Thomas A Swift’s Electronic Rifle, so if you see it spelled as tazer, it’s completely wrong.

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Canvas or canvass?

These two spellings are often confused, but they mean quite different things.

Canvas means a tough material and it was often used to make tents and to cover deck chairs, as in:

During the Second World War, soldiers were often housed in tents made from canvas.

The verb canvass means to campaign, to electioneer, to drum up support or to solicit votes, as in:

The politician visited most of the homes in his electorate as he tried to canvass support for his re-election.

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Interment or internment?

These words are so similar in spelling and yet their meaning is quite different.
Interment means burial, committal, funeral or entombment, as in:
During war, soldiers who have died on the battlefield are often given a hurried interment.
Internment means imprisonment, confinement, captivity, custody, incarceration, detention, as in:
Prisoners of war can often be subjected to a lengthy internment.

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Poky, pokey or pokie?

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Have you ever wondered which of these spellings is correct? I checked a number of dictionaries and found this answer: While poky and pokey appear to be largely interchangeable, pokie has an entirely different meaning.

When poky (pokey) is used as an adjective and refers to a place, it means small or cramped: The policeman entered the poky room.

When used to describe a person, it means someone who is moving slowly or pottering or concerned with petty matters: He had a poky view of the world until he began to travel.

When used as a noun, poky can also mean a prison, although the Macquarie dictionary says that the usual spelling for this sense of the word would be pokey and not poky: The drunk man spent a night in the pokey.

Pokie, on the other hand, is a noun, a slang word for a poker machine in Australia: The gambler was addicted to playing the pokies.

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