Specious vs. spacious and the case of the plausible rooms

The world of real estate often requires a guidebook to make sense of its vocabulary. For instance, a "fixer-upper" means a house you'll spend the rest of your life repairing. "Cute" means the house's living room is also an eat-in bedroom....

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Sow vs. sew and the case of the explosive underwear

A story in today’s Times contains this bit of curious phrasing. As I read, I imagined this misguided chap bent over in an airport restroom in Amsterdam, his drawers at his knees, and accomplices scattering cluster bombs about his briefs....

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Horde vs. hoard and the fading of a grammatical fantasy

I once hoped that the A&E series Hoarders would help people use hoard and horde correctly. That was a fantasy, perhaps, but I thought that seeing the name of the show repeatedly would cause someone to think twice the next...

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Affect, effect and the peril of snakebites

Homophones slither through writing like hungry snakes, striking hard and fast when disturbed and leaving a painful mark behind. Affect and effect are among the slipperiest homophones. Much of the time, affect is a verb and effect is a noun, as...

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Ordinance vs. ordnance, fact vs. fiction

How do you tell a real military base from a fictional one? Try checking the spelling. I pulled these screenshots from an old episode of NCIS I was watching the other day. In it, the agents had traveled to an area that...

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