Funny Mistakes Help Improve Vocabulary Featured

Funny mistakes by others, or even your own funny mistakes, can help you to improve your vocabulary — so long as you learn from those mistakes. For example, the new book The Funny Dictionary is a collection of student bloopers, arranged in alphabetical form. Most of the funny definitions in The Funny Dictionary come from answers school children have provided to English exam questions. But in order to find the book's definitions funny, you must understand the child's mistake. For this, you need a good vocabulary. Study the following extract from The Funny Dictionary to see if you can work out the source of the child's confusion and why their definition is funny. It's much better if you can work out the joke for yourself, but we've given you some examples to help anyway. The Funny Dictionary is available in its entirety, for free, at

Tip: If you're serious about improving your vocabulary, we highly recommend the popular vocabulary-building software Ultimate Vocabulary.* Ultimate Vocabulary is a powerful vocabulary-building tool that comes with lots of different kinds of vocabulary-expanding exercises. Try it at Ultimate Vocabulary and avoid making embarrassing mistakes!

Read the following extract from The Funny Dictionary. Can you work out how the student who gave the funny definition made their mistake?Improve Vocabulary With The Funny Dictionary

Here are some explanations about how the students got confused.

Parsimonious means frugal or stingy with money; but the student confuses parsimonious with parson (a kind of priest). Perhaps the child is unconsciously saying something about the generosity, or lack of it, of clergy?

A pas de deuz is a dance for two. But the student mistakes pas for pa (a word for dad or father). The French pas and the word pa are similarly pronounced.

Pathology is the study of disease (path comes from the Greek pathos, meaning feeling or suffering). The suffix -ology means the study of. Unfortunately, however, the student thinks pathology means the study of paths or pathways.

A pedagogue is a teacher. The prefixes ped-, pedi-, and pedo- indicates that foot or child modifies the word that follows the prefix. Unfortunately, the student opts for foot in this example, rather than child (pedagogue means lead a child).

Peerless means without peer or matchless or beyond compare. Here, peer means a person of the same age, status, or group. But peer also means to look intently or with difficulty at someone or something. So the student mistakenly thinks peerless means the inability to look or see.

In the pencil example, the student simply confuses pencil for penicillin, perhaps as the result of the teacher's garbled pronunciation.

Pensive means thoughtful. But the student is thinking of expensive. The prefix ex- means out or out of. It can also mean former. Thus the student mistakenly believes pensive is the opposite of expensive and hence cheap.

The child who defines peruse (which means to read thoroughly or carefully) as "belonging to Peru", mishears or misunderstands peruse for Peru's.

The student who gives the funny definition for petroleum confuses petroleum (a fuel) with linoleum (a laminate flooring).

Can you explain the rest of the funny definitions extracted above?

For the complete set of funny definitions in The Funny Dictionary, visit To improve your vocabulary, visit Ultimate Vocabulary.

*Denise and I recommend only software that we have tried and tested ourselves. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of the Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse this award-winning vocabulary-building software.



Last modified on Friday, 27 November 2015 23:13
English Language Skills (Troy)

English Language Skills (Troy)

I have a law degree, I've run an award-winning business, and I am a published author.

My most popular book is Funny English Errors and Insights: Illustrated.

My new book is The Funny Dictionary.

I have a particular interest in vocabulary improvement and speed reading.

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