Spelling, Vocabulary, and Confusing Words
Many words in English sound or look alike, causing confusion and not a few headaches. This section lists some of these words, and other troublemakers.
Hair: what grows on the head and body.
Hare: a rabbit.
Hall: a passageway; a large room.
Haul: to pull or drag.
Halve: to divide in two.
Have: to possess; to hold.
Many think that a shed or shelter for housing airplanes is a "hanger," rather than a hangar (the correct spelling).
A hanger is something to hang a garment on, or someone who hangs things.
Speakers and writers who value precision know that the past tense of hang, when it means "to put to death using a rope," is hanged, not hung. This applies to both the active and passive voice: They hanged the prisoner and The prisoner was hanged.
For inanimate objects, use hung. Under unusual conditions, people also hung or are hung, e.g., He hung from the tree with one hand or He found himself hung upside down.
Heal: to repair; to restore to health.
Heel: the back part of the foot; a scoundrel.
The difference between these two words is unquestionable, healthful meaning "something that promotes health" and healthy meaning "in good health." But in everyday speech, healthful has been nudged aside by healthy in phrases like healthy food or a healthy diet.
There is an ear in hear, and here is 80 percent of where.
Heroin: a drug derived from morphine.
Heroine: a woman admired for courage or ability.
See an historic.
Hoard: to stockpile; to amass.
Horde: a large group; a crowd.
Hoarse: raspy; sore-throated.
Horse: a type of animal.
Hole: an opening.
Whole: entirety (noun); entire (adjective).
A critic called a film "a homage to motherhood." The critic wisely did not write "an homage," knowing full well that the h is sounded (see an historic). This word has spun out of control in the twenty-first century. Its traditional pronunciation is "HOMM-ij." Then "AHM-ij" gained a foothold, and it went downhill from there. Now, just about all one hears is the pseudo-sophisticated "oh-MAHZH," a pronunciation that was virtually nonexistent in English until the late twentieth century.
Make it home in. Hone in has achieved undeserved legitimacy for the worst of reasons: the similarity in sound and appearance of n and m. Honing is a technique used for sharpening cutting tools and the like.
To home in, like zero in, is to get something firmly in your sights, to get to the crux of a problem.
HOT WATER HEATER
A curious term for water heater.
See hanged, hung.