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mangeons's avatar

Why do so many people confuse the word "defiantly" with "definitely"?

Asked by mangeons (12119 points ) June 24th, 2010

While they are both words, they both have two different meanings, are pronounced differently, and the spellings aren’t even that similar. Can people really not take the time to recognize the total difference between the words “defiantly” and “definitely”? It’s something I’ve been seeing more and more recently, what’s causing this mass confusion between the two words?

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20 Answers

MaryW's avatar

What a GQ ! Two reasons I see right away: one reason people act out and two reasons for the spelling: Emotionally they are insecure so in definitely mode they act defiantly AND, my answer to your question specifically, scholastically they are either in a rush and/or they can not spell.

wundayatta's avatar

I see this kind of thing a lot (although I have never seen the example you provide). There was one recently—I wish I could remember—where the person said the wrong word and it took me forever to figure out what they meant to say. I think it was because the word they used rhymed with the word they meant.

I generally think this happens for a couple of reasons. My first thought is that they are stretching for a word that they think they know, but they don’t. This tends to annoy me because I think they are trying to sound more educated than they are, and I wish they would use words they know how to use because their meaning would be clearer. Second, I think it’s a genuine mistake. They reached for one word, and came up with the one stored next to it in their brain.

So take your pick. I don’t really know. Of course, there could be many other reasons.

marinelife's avatar

I definitely think it is bad spelling.

CMaz's avatar

Some words are just a blur.

markyy's avatar

Obviously they haven’t visited this site before: http://www.d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y.com/. There are a lot of p-o-s-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-i-e-s, but my best guess is that you’re dealing with a non-native English speaker or someone who has been diagnosed with dyslexia.

CMaz's avatar

“or someone who has been diagnosed with dyslexia.”

BINGO!

markyy's avatar

@ChazMaz Bongo? I only play the vuvuzela. Sorry :)

gailcalled's avatar

Don’t ask me. (I’ve got a little list. The possibilities for misspelling are almost infinite. “Definantly” is just one. List available on request.Many are due to laziness, guesswork or apathy rather than dyslexia)

See this question from May, 2008 (full disclosure: I asked it.)

http://www.fluther.com/14225/if-i-banned-definitely-from-the-language-could-you-find-a/

CMaz's avatar

angle and angel mess me up.

Symbeline's avatar

I’ve never noticed the confusion before.

ucme's avatar

I defiantly agree.I mean these people just definitly carry on without even attempting to ACHIEVE (hee hee) the correct grammar….err something went wrong there….. I think!!

gailcalled's avatar

@ucme: It did, indeed. (You “arrive at” or ‘achieve” the correct spelling, not “attain.”)

ucme's avatar

@gailcalled Drat & double drat, foiled again. You little tinker you.I may even cheat & do a little stealth edit to cover my tracks…..but then i’ve just told everyone my cunning plan….so that won’t work now. Fumblesticks!!!!!!

gailcalled's avatar

@ChazMaz: Think of the soft “g” (sounds like “j”) in angel and then think of “gel.”

“Angle” has the hard “g” as does “gull.” (As does Gail.)

Buttonstc's avatar

Because Phonics is no longer the predominant method for teaching reading.

An “oldie but goody” book that explains this very well was written by Rudolph Fleisch.

“Why Johnny Can’t Read”

There are numerous words which have a surface similarity and those who are not in the firm habit of breaking a word up into it’s separate syllables just take guesses.

If one takes a half second to pronounce each syllable, it’s obvious they cannot be substituted for one another.

Jeruba's avatar

I generally attribute this kind of thing (which I see often too—including many instances of this particular aberration right here on fluther) to ignorance and poor attitude, which in my mind are very closely linked. (What they don’t know doesn’t matter because, of course, they are doing fine without it.)

I have seen so many native-English-speaking Americans who are careless, sloppy, or hopeless spellers that I don’t think we need to look to English learners (many of whom are extremely meticulous with the language) or people with learning disabilities to find an explanation. You’d be amazed how many such folks are earning their living as professional writers.

It’s not a far stretch from “definately” and “definatly” to “defiantly,” after all, and I suppose “defiantly” must have the advantage of looking somewhat familiar.

Many people seem to look only at the beginning of a word and then wing it from there, leaning heavily on context to support meaning. They expect the reader to do most of the work instead of sharing the burden of communication.

I do wonder what those folks see or think they see when they read. Do they suppose the Tony Curtis-Sidney Poitier movie is about two people who are really definite about things?

DominicX's avatar

I’ve never noticed this either. :\

This isn’t like a homophone. It’s easy to confuse “affect” and “effect” and all those ridiculous homophones that English has, but this is a completely different word that has a completely different sound and if you sound it out like when you were 5, you can figure it out. How anyone could confuse the two is beyond me.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I agree with @Jeruba that carelessness and laziness are commonly observed in native speakers of English who fail to discriminate between words that are structurally similar. These people frequently mispronounce words they use and often use words that do not really mean what they are trying to say.

People who read regularly and use a good dictionary where they encounter words whose meaning is unclear to them rarely make such errors.

Even if you really hated to read where you were younger, it is so important to your continued growth as a person that you read regularly. The subject is not nearly as important as the quality of the material.

Don’t go through life feeling intimidated by those who know about more things and who seem to express themselves well! By being a frequent reader you will become more and more and like those who know about many things and can express themselves with confidence.

Haleth's avatar

There are some simpler ones I see all the time that drive me crazy, like loose/lose or breath/breathe. Seeing stuff like “I can’t breath” or “I don’t want to loose you again” in writing is so frustrating.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Dyslexia, and that it’s been proven that humans don’t read each and every word fully. Instead, we rely on context clues. So it’s very easy to make a typo, and then not realize it because one word was spelled correctly – or, you choose the wrong word in the spell-check options.

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