Wrong Word Wednesday #13

Every week I will demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the one intended. Sometimes this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence. Unfortunately, the mistake is usually so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television

Venomous / Poisonous

This is one of those that a lot of people confuse – some do not even realise there is a difference. Most recently I saw it in Running with the Pack by Mark Rowlands who refers to venomous snakes and then avoiding them because they are poisonous. So… what is the difference?

Venomous – these creatures (usually animals rather than plants) inject toxins. This they do using fangs or a stinger. They puncture the skin so that they may inject their venom directly into the bloodstream. Snakes, bees and wasps are venomous. Snakes because they have fangs to bite and bees and wasps because they have a stinger to jab you with.

Poisonous – The difference here is that these do not inject toxins, merely the act of touching them is enough to transmit toxins. “Poisonous” also refers to those toxins that are inhaled or ingested. If you drink a harmful substance, it is poisonous. Stinging nettles and poison dart frogs are poisonous (both secrete and do not inject)


2 thoughts on “Wrong Word Wednesday #13

  1. This one had never even occurred to me! I like reading this feature as it makes me realise how stupid I am. Also, I wouldn’t normally plug my own stuff but I thought you might be interested in the latest article I wrote. Would be interested to hear your thoughts. http://www.mattcannotwrite.co.uk/the-rant-doctor-who-4-reasons-why-moffat-is-a-better-writer-than-davis/

    1. I think a lot of these have passed into the vernacular because the people we rely on for “well good English” get it so horrifically wrong all of the time. The media, particularly television journalists so often say “that’s 4000 less cases than last year”. Stuff like that makes me want to scream at the tellybox

      No problem on the plug! I will read later today and comment. I already suspect I’m going to agree with you on every point.

      I need to read your book soon, I bought it about a year ago and keep forgetting it is there!

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