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I see people confusing words that are compounded from two words with a phrase made from those words. This is easy to do, as they look and sound very similar:

For example:

  • "everyday", an adjective, with "every day", which I assume is a prepositional (or adverbial?) phrase.
  • "giveaway", a noun, with "give away", a phrase containing a verb.
  • "awhile", an adverb, with "a while", a noun phrase.

However, the word "everyday" has a defined meaning in Standard English, and it's different to "every day". My question assumes that the inevitable language change that leads to each pair merging hasn't happened yet.

Phenomena like this sometimes have specific names (like 'metathesis'). Is there a technical name given to this mixup?

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    You forgot "alot", I see that spelling mistake quite a bit. There ain't no confusion, in speech the words are being used correctly, it's how they are written down that create confusion or ambiguity.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 16, 2018 at 9:16
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    I don't think "alot" counts, as it isn't a word in Standard English. (It's a word on Reddit, but it's more of an inside meta joke word)
    – Joe
    Mar 16, 2018 at 9:18
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    And I think there is confusion. "Giveaway" is pronounced differently to "give away", at least in my experience. Aaand even if there isn't cognitive confusion and it's a surface-level spelling error, this is still a phenomenon that could have a name.
    – Joe
    Mar 16, 2018 at 9:19
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    If speakers want to say that something revealed its true identity they'll say: "That was a real giveaway" If they wrote it as "a real give away" then we're talking about a misspelling, it's incorrect, but the phrase is grammatical in speech. What about someone writing "some one"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 16, 2018 at 9:25
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    Indeed it might boil down to falsely perceived homonym when spelling. Whatever the mechanism (which is an interesting question), the question of terminology stands.
    – Joe
    Mar 16, 2018 at 11:06

3 Answers 3

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Homophones

Whether it's two words or phrases, if their sound similarity is the problem, they are homophones.

See also egg-corns and mondegreens

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I can't imagine a case where you would notice this misuse in speech. Rather you would notice it when viewing written words. I may be wrong but I'd bet good money all the examples you gave would sound exactly the same when spoken.

"Wait awhile" vs "Wait a while"
"Everyday is the same" vs "Every day is the same"
"I don't want to giveaway my secret" vs "I don't want to give away my secret"

In view of that, I'd simply call it a mispelling, an orthographic error or a typo.

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I believe misusage may fit here:

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  • That's a bit broad. I'm enquiring whether there's a word as specific as, for example, metathesis.
    – Joe
    Mar 21, 2018 at 17:41
  • I see you are not satisfied with the answer. It is absolutely understandable, but I think there is no such word. I hope someone more knowledgeable can help you soon (to the benefit of both of us, of course).
    – haha
    Mar 21, 2018 at 20:47
  • FYI, sometimes you need to edit your question so that more people see the question. sometimes it works.
    – haha
    Mar 21, 2018 at 20:58
  • Thanks, I'm experienced with stackoverflow but not this community. I've given it a little edit. Yeah, there probably isn't a specific word, but you never know!
    – Joe
    Mar 22, 2018 at 11:35
  • You are right. English is something.
    – haha
    Mar 22, 2018 at 11:55

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