THE WISDOM OF CONFUSIONS
One mustn’t confuse a scintilla
with the Antilles.
A scintilla is small
The Antilles, also. But on a larger scale.
A scintilla is closer to an iota,
not to be confused with Antarctica.
An iota is dotless.
Antarctica is dotted with penguins.
This is how you tell them apart.
Iota is a letter i.
Lambda is a letter l.
Alpha is an upside-down ox-head
not to be confused with Oxford,
a shallow place where oxen cross.
One mustn’t confuse a giraffe.
They are unwieldy at the best of times,
unhinged from gravity or direction,
they are more deadly than a rhinoceros,
not to be confused with rhinitis,
which is not deadly,
merely irritating, and besides,
is nearly extinct.
Tom Howell is the author of The Rude Story of English (McClelland & Stewart), a pseudo-history of the English language. He also co-hosts an ongoing documentary series on CBC Radio One, “Ideas from the Trenches,” about PhD students.