25 words smart people should never mix up

Joe Vesey-Byrne
Saturday 30 July 2016 17:00
Showbiz
Picture: PeskyMonkey/iStock

Some of the most common mistakes in English are to do with verbs and adjectives, like mixing up illusion and allusion, or saying allude when one means to say refer.

Scandalous, really.

But there are also plenty of words that if you consider yourself to be a smart-cookie, you should really never confuse. Especially when trying to talk of matters high and mighty. These are the nouns which people often think are interchangeable, when in actual fact they are nothing of the sort.

Make yourself feel smarter by pulling your friends and acquaintances if they dare to misuse these any of these in your presence...

1. England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles

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England is one of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is the political union ruled by Queen Elizabeth II and consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Great Britain is the island which England, Scotland and Wales inhabit. The British Isles is this same island, plus Ireland and the Isle of Man.

2. Soap and Detergent

The difference between these two nouns lies in how they are produced. Soap is technically made from oils and natural fats (sometimes from people, if we were allowed to talk about Fight Club this would make more sense). Detergent is man-made and produced using synthetic chemicals.

3. Iranian and Persian

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Iranian is a nationality, the one given to anyone who is a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Persia is actually the Anglicization of the word Farsi. Persian refers to the majority-ethnicity of Iran. It's also what English speakers call the above type of cat for some reason.

4. Cement and Concrete

Cement is actually the powder base that is mixed with other ingredients to make concrete. Who knew?

5. Arab, Arabic, and Arabian

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Arab is an ethnic group.

Arabic is the language spoken by many Arabs.

Arabian refers to plant/animal species which originate from the Arabian Peninsular.

6. Ecology and Environment

Ecology refers to a system of interrelationship between an environment and the organisms which inhabit it. An environment does not necessarily include the organisms which inhabit it.

7. The Netherlands and Holland

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The Netherlands is the country, made up of 12 provinces. Two of these are North Holland and South Holland. Together these two make up the historical region that was known as Holland.

8. Cologne and Perfume

This isn't just a distinction created by advertising. Cologne is made from alcohol and fragrant oils whereas a perfume is an evaporating oil which is either man-made or collected from flowers. Perfume is much more concentrated than cologne, and is often more expensive. That last one may be because of advertising.

9. Arc and Arch

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Both of these probably come from the same Latin root arcus, but whereas Arc refers to a line or 2 dimensional shape which is curved, the noun Arch refers to the curved 3 dimensional symmetrical structure

10. Latino and Hispanic

Latino refers to a person with ancestors originating in Latin America or the Caribbean, including countries where they don't speak Spanish, such as Brazil and Barbados. Hispanic means anyone whose ancestors originate in a Spanish speaking country. Latino is about geography, Hispanic about a language.

11. Seeing-eye dog and Guide dog

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This is a case of branding. A Seeing-eye dog can only be referred to as such if it has been trained by Seeing Eye Inc., located in Morristown, New Jersey. Otherwise these helpful canines should be called Guide dogs.

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