20 Things Most of Us Think Are the Same—But Aren’t
You’re probably saying these things interchangeably.
Poisonous and venomous
“Venomous” applies to animals that bite or sting, injecting toxins. Anything that’s “poisonous” unloads toxins when you eat it, according to the Encyclopedia. So saying a snake is “poisonous” is almost always incorrect as the snake bite is what usually releases toxins. One exception is the garter snake which has a small or harmless bite but is toxic to eat, per the Encyclopedia.
Colleges and universities
“University” is an older word generally referring to institutions with both undergraduate and graduate or professional programs, per dictionary.com. Some states in the United States require that a “university” offers graduate degrees in at least three fields. “Colleges” emphasize undergraduate learning and might not have graduate degrees at all, although some still offer both programs. Another common difference between the two is that “colleges” tend to be smaller than “universities.” The biggest difference between the two might be mostly cultural. Over time, “university” became more prestigious than “college” which is why some schools are changing their names. To make things even more confusing, some “universities” have “colleges” within them for different areas of undergraduate study. If your head hurts from thinking about this, prepare to have your mind blown by these 30 things you probably never thought about—until just now.
Macaroons and macarons
One letter in spelling these sweet treats is a small difference between two almost completely different desserts. French “macarons” are meringue-based sandwich cookies with either ganache, jam, or buttercream filling. They are notoriously tricky to make, but macaroons aren’t. “Macaroons” have shredded coconut as the main ingredient and only take 30 minutes or less to make, like with this recipe.
Robberies and burglaries
A “robbery” is some person-to-person interaction and theft with, “force, intimidation, or coercion,” according to the Law Office of Nancy King. “Burglary,” however, only requires intent to steal, it doesn’t require actually stealing property or a person interaction. Meanwhile, “theft” simply means you stole without interacting with anyone.
Climate and weather
“Weather” accounts for the day-to-day temperature, precipitation, and humidity in a specific area, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “Climate,” however, is a long-term average weather trend. So the weather might be 50 degrees, rainy, and humid for New York in April, but the climate might usually be warmer and wetter. We bet you don’t know these 10 other nature words everyone gets wrong either.
Turtles and tortoises
The Tortoise and the Hare could have another title if Aesop knew other animal distinctions. “Turtle” is an umbrella term for turtles, tortoises, and terrapins, according to National Geographic. “Tortoises” are turtles that strictly live on land and aren’t made for water. Some turtles, however, are aquatic. An easy way to tell the difference between the two is to look at their feet as tortoise feet resemble elephant feet while turtles and specifically sea turtles have webbed feet or true flippers, per NatGeo. This is just one of the interesting animal distinctions you probably don’t remember.
Great Britain and the United Kingdom
Across the pond is either the United Kingdom or Great Britain, depending on who’s talking. Although foreigners might mix up these words, they aren’t interchangeable. According to the Encyclopedia, “Great Britain” is a geographic and political term referring to the island of Britain including Wales, Scotland, England, as well as some other small islands off the coast. The “United Kingdom” is a political term and independent country including all of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So while Great Britain is part of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom is not part of Great Britain. And here’s the reason why it’s not just called “Britain.”
Jam and jelly
Everyone has a favorite jam and or jelly, but the sweet spreads aren’t identical. “Jelly” is from the boiled sweetened fruit juice and pectin, a thickening agent. “Jam” has larger chunks of fruit as part of the fruit juice making jam thicker and often more flavorful. Both jam and jelly are also different from the preserves and marmalade, too.
The flu and colds
Colds and cases of the flu have lots of similarities, which is why some people confuse the two terms. They are both respiratory infections from viruses with some lousy symptoms. Some of the cold symptoms are a sore throat, runny nose, and maybe a nasal drip, too. “Flu” symptoms differ since the nose is sometimes congested, there’s almost always fever, and extreme exhaustion. Unlike the flu, however, “colds” and cold symptoms don’t last as long those of the flu and flu symptoms could develop or lead to serious complications. Check out this chart to compare your symptoms and for a cold of the flu.
Streets, roads, and avenues
These terms aren’t just fun ways to change up the language of street names. “Roads” are typically throughways connecting two points, but “streets” are public roads with buildings on both sides, Mental Floss reports. So while “streets” are “roads,” “roads” aren’t “streets.” Then there are “avenues” which run the opposite way of roads, either north-south or east-west, depending on where you live. If you live on a “boulevard” or “lane,” there are also differences for those subsections of streets and roads, too.