Is there a term to describe someone that doesn't seem able to differentiate between two words such as "racial" or "racist"? I mean beyond simply overlooking it. Like, you could try to explain the difference but then they just get mad at you. I was thinking stubborn and ignorant, but I feel like there's a more accurate term.

  • Usually in cases like this, the explainer is being overly pedantic about meaning without regard to actual usage and probably is ignorant (naively or otherwise) of the ways in which similar or sound-alike words are used as proxies for other words, terms, and concepts.
    – horatio
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


I think it is semantic confusion:

Misperceiving or misremembering a word as one that has a similar meaning, as when lamp is perceived or recalled as light.

And it can result in malapropism:

A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance.

In general, the person is wrong-headed:

stubborn in adherence to wrong opinion or principles

or obstinate:

Stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so




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