I am fascinated by the English language. Even though I make a lot of typos and grammatical errors which my readers are kind enough to quickly point out, I take special note of common errors like "effect vs. affect" (one is a noun, the other a verb).
So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this page with hundreds of them (make sure to scroll down past the picture of the book and intro text to see the gigantic list of words).
Flesh out/Flush out*
To “flesh out” an idea is to give it substance, as a sculptor adds clay flesh to a skeletal armature. To “flush out” a criminal is to drive him or her out into the open. The latter term is derived from bird-hunting, in which one flushes out a covey of quail. If you are trying to develop something further, use “flesh”; but if you are trying to reveal something hitherto concealed, use “flush.”
Backslash vs. Slash
This is a slash: /. Because the top of it leans forward, it is sometimes called a “forward slash.”
This is a backslash: \. Notice the way it leans back, distinguishing it from the regular slash.
Slashes are often used to indicate directories and subdirectories in
computer systems such as Unix and in World Wide Web addresses.
Unfortunately, many people, assuming “backslash” is some sort of
technical term for the regular slash, use the term incorrectly, which
risks confusing those who know enough to distinguish between the two
but not enough to realize that Web addresses rarely contain
“Gibe” is a now rare term meaning “to tease.” “Jibe” means “to agree,” but is usually used negatively, as in “the alibis of the two crooks didn’t jibe.” The latter word is often confused with “jive,” which derives from slang which originally meant to treat in a jazzy manner (“Jivin’ the Blues Away”) but also came to be associated with deception (“Don’t give me any of that jive”).
Can you see how strangely addictive this can become?
The formatting is truly painful on the eyes, but maybe this is intentional so that you don’t spend twelve hours straight reading it.
There is a book and calendar too. I can’t think of a better gift for the writing nerds in your life. Too bad my Dad and sister read my blog, since this would have been the perfect Christmas present for them.
This list, created ten years ago by Paul Brians, an English Professor at Washington State University, has been visited by over 8 million people. Somehow I missed it. Now I have yet one more site to visit when I should be doing something productive.
*I once dragged a whole online discussion board down a rat hole with a
discussion of "flesh out vs. flush out." I don’t know why, but it
drove me crazy to hear it used incorrectly.
(Update via Dan about my "effect vs. affect" … I was wrong, or at least not entirely correct. Look it up on Paul’s list for a complete explanation. I told you my readers didn’t let me get away with errors!)