Friday, June 4, 2010

Homophone peeve

I've almost posted about this a million times, and this morning I'm just going to fire it off: the misuse of stationary absolutely drives me batty!

I know, it's one little letter, but I just gotta say it.

   /ˈsteɪʃəˌnɛri/ [stey-shuh-ner-ee]
1. writing paper.
2. writing materials, as pens, pencils, paper, and envelopes.

   /ˈsteɪʃəˌnɛri/ [stey-shuh-ner-ee]
1. standing still; not moving.
2. having a fixed position; not movable.
3. established in one place; not itinerant or migratory.
4. remaining in the same condition or state; not changing: "The market price has remained stationary for a week."

(Definitions and pronunciations courtesy of

Here's a fun pun:
"No matter how you push the envelope, it's still stationery."
But maybe that is even more confusing for some people.

OK, that's my rant for the day... I'll leave you on a positive note, related to this homophone peeve: PostMuse is doing a very fun giveaway of a tote bag with both of these words defined.

Update: Thanks to reader JP in CA for pointing out this fun post on the Crane blog. True 'nuff, people in the business should know how to spell their own product!


  1. It is amazing how often people get the two confused. You aren't alone though & I had to chuckle when I saw your post because Peter Hopkins at the Crane blog recently posted about this subject as well. (

  2. Thanks for this! I've just updated my post with this fine info.

  3. In grade school we were taught a mnemonic about this: stationery = papER while stationary = stAying or stAnding still. It's the only way I can keep it straight! ;-)

  4. People don't write letters very often anymore, so stationery has become stationary.

    Since I'm here, let me add a rant that has hardly anything to do with this one. It is the use of less instead of fewer,as in "less people are concerned about good manners." Yikes.

  5. yes thanks for clearing that up for us and the millions who dont know the proper spelling of such . amen finally someone who does .

  6. Ledeaux: very cute mnemonic! The way I used to remember it was that a stationER sells stationERy; no such thing as a stationAR.

    Christine H: your joke is cute, but "people don't write letters very often anymore??" Surely you jest, or forget the blog on which you are commenting! I wonder how PostMuse will ring in on that comment...

  7. ok, but if it was my letter my excuse is that I just can't spell, not that I was thinking of the wrong word...(for the latter I probably just would have said "stand still" or "not move" or even worse, inert...)

  8. Labboo - it peeves me MUCH more from those that make and sell stationery than from those that just use it. I certainly don't care about spelling in a personal letter... and I SO owe you a letter!!!

  9. Thank you for promoting my giveaway! I love word play, so I guess I am glad that stationery and stationary are often mixed up. I am playing with a follow up giveaway (not telling what I'm giving away) that will work the difference between "it's" and "its" into the post.

  10. Just getting to reading all the comments and most of the 6477 (exact number) of contacts in my address book would say to Christine, "We write! We write!" Internet didn't kill the letter, but it has dusted it off and given it shiny new tools.

    And, spelling errors in letters don't really bother me either. I make them all the time. And I misuse commas left and right. Mostly I just wish more people, for whom English is a first language, paid attention to the language and its idiosyncrasies.

  11. How could people selling stationery write stationary?? Definitely a peeve.

  12. I am often bothered by the idea of stationary stationery, and the misuse of both words. Although as a total aside I am a huge texter and the misuse of the words to, too, two (or the number 2 replacement) in texting drives me around the bend.

    Not that this really has anything to do with this post, but it really does make my teeth hurt, and we were kind of on the same subject.

  13. When I think stationary show, I think wax museum. Thank you very much for the Dr. Seuss!! : )

  14. Felicity: hee hee, wax museum! (Glad the Dr. Seuss arrived safely.)

  15. My trick for stationery is letter. Letter has e's which reminds me stationery has an "e" at the end.