BIG 4 Clusters of Commonly Confused Words (CCW)

Commonly confused words, or homonyms, are words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings.  The Big 4 Clusters of CCWs refer to the four sets of the most commonly misspelled homonyms. These word clusters reached this status because they’re such commonly used words. See, I just used one!

But seriously, let’s classify these words according to their function instead of the more typical, “they’re, their, there, etc.” style. Maybe that will make their spelling easier to rememberAssignment: Write twelve sentences using each of these words in its own sentence.


1. it’s = it is (3rd sing.)

    It’s sunny today.          



2.  they’re = they are (3rd pl.)

     They’re at the brown brick house.

     Walt and Gloria are at the brown brick house.              

3.  you’re = (2nd  ) you are

    You’re a good cook. You’re good cooks.


  • Note that all three of these contractions use “is” or “are” with a subject pronoun.
  • I have used two sentences on #2 to show how a pronoun (they) substitutes for third-person subject nouns.
  • “You’re” is the same word for singular and plural, just as “you” refers to one or more people and can be the subject or object of the sentence.
  •  “You all/y’all” in the South and “You guys” in the North appear to be slang efforts to deal with the lack of two separate words for the second person singular and plural.


4.  its (3rd sing.)

     The house needs its sink fixed.  

It is rare for something without a gender to have or own something.


5.  their (3rd pl.)

      Their house is near the park.

      Ray and Dorothy’s house is near the park.

6. your (2nd)

 I like your





      • Notice that none of these possessive pronouns use apostrophes—unlike a noun(s) functioning as a possessive adjective would require an apostrophe. For example: “Danny’s screwdriver” could be referred to as “his screwdriver” if somebody else was talking about it.
      • The odd reality about #4 “its” is noted in the box.
      • I have used two sentences in #5 to show how a pronoun (their) functioning-as-an-adjective substitutes for third person possessive nouns, which in this case serves as the subject of the sentence.
      • “Your” is the same word for singular and plural.  


  homonym Definition/description Example
7. to preposition before a noun or pronoun meaning “towards” She went to the cafeteria.
8. to When used before a verb; the word becomes an infinitive and can’t function as the main verb of the sentence. I love to sing with Spanish tapes while reading lyrics to improve my listening comprehension and have fun doing it.
9. too also (“tambien” in Spanish) I want some chips and hot sauce too.
10. too Over-doing or under-doing of what is desirable. (“demasiado” in Spanish). We put too much salt in that casserole. Is he considered too small to play linebacker in college?



I don’t have a category for all of these words; here are the two left over from our Big 4 Commonly Confused Sets of Words.


11.  there = refers to direction or location.

      There is a red truck coming down the street.                                                   

12. two = 2.

I kept two kittens from the first litter.             



                        MOST CONFUSING OF THE BIG 4 CCW’S

“It’s” and “its” receive my vote for the most frequently confused pair or set of words in this category; this seems to be a unanimous decision. Even books and website entries may show this error, a lack of editing.

Furthermore, animals that you don’t know are referred to by “its” For example, “The jaguar hurt its paw.”

On the other hand, you should refer to animals that you know personally by their gender—not “it” or “its.” Obviously this applies to house pets, a favorite farm animal, and even more creatures if you’re a zoo employee or in a related profession. For example, “Fluffy is friendly to all visitors. Also, when she lived with a previous owner, Fluffy used to visit a neighborhood-gathering spot frequently and gained much respect for her rat-catching ability.”  EdHelper provides “List of Homonyms” 252 groups of words. You’ll need to provide the meaning for the words.

Dealing with a Bad COPD Exacerbation & Maybe Dodging an E.R. Visit (4th Edition)

By J.D. (“Joffre”) Meyer
Those of us with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) live with the strong risk of an exacerbation that is severe enough to go to the Emergency Room by way of ambulance. I developed asthma 18 years before COPD too. We face a mix of lung spasms, excess chest phlegm, and a low FEV (Forced Exhale Volume). Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS) is known for increased breathlessness and sputum–but a better response to inhaled corticosteroids.

It’s typical for me to have some coughing and wheezing when I awake, and sometimes after a walk. Choice #1 is using an asthma rescue inhaler, such as Combivent or Pro-Air. It’s like a “Bud Light” version of the nebulizer, as both use albuterol. Combivent is stronger, and it also has ipratropium. But the likelihood of its effectiveness goes downhill if our attack is more than simply mild. Rule #2 is not to take the long-term inhalers during an acute attack, such as Advair or Symbicort, and Singulair.

So we go for our dear friend, the nebulizer, and pour a vial of albuterol or albuterol-ipratropium in the receptacle. We get “Albut-Iprat” when our condition becomes worse. I just started getting Combivent, the stronger “Albut-Iprat” inhaler. Our next choice is mask or “pipe.” Most say the pipe-like hose is better because we get more of the medicine. So here’s my first original suggestion. If you wear the mask, put your oxygen canula up your nose (assuming you own one). Really tired COPD sufferers may have difficulties with the pipe. Lately, I’ve switched back to the pipe-like breathing tube. Furthermore, I’ve started holding a lozenge in my mouth while I inhale my albuterol from the nebulizer. The lozenge is menthol and maybe eucalyptus too. That way, the cooling anti-inflammatory elements of the lozenge shoot directly to your lungs, as opposed to staying in your mouth and keeping you from coughing phlegm. My guess has been approved by real doctors!

Speaking of phlegm, keep a plastic can with a lid handy, such as my old Folger’s coffee can, the regular 10.3 oz. size. Don’t even consider swallowing that phlegm. I’m not trying to be funny because it’s not. Don’t expect to be able to run to spit in the nearest toilet or sink either. Make sure you drink enough water too–a likely weak area for most people. 1.5 liters daily should be enough since other fluids are okay; vegetables and fruits are full of water too. I use an attractive purple jug for my water, so I’ll notice it better! I can keep the squirt cap on when I take my many morning pills. Then I remove the cap for water guzzling! Now I’m exploring fruit-flavored water to increase my likelihood of really hydrating. Furthermore, local water systems have been breaking down lately!

Now let’s look at the OTC (over-the-counter) medicines. For your chest congestion, take some guaifenesin; that is, Mucinex or a generic version. COPD is a mix of emphysema and bronchitis. Bronchitis is like having a perpetual chest cold while emphysema is a destruction of the lung sacs and a lack of elasticity in the lungs.

What if you have nasal congestion? A saline nasal spray will open a constricted nose. Later I submitted this article to COPD Breathing Buddies of Facebook, and I was warned about Sudafed. This drug may reduce nasal congestion, but Sudafed can raise your blood pressure, which may happen anyway during a COPD attack. In the past, I added Mullein leaves (gordolobo), eucalyptus leaves to my morning coffee drip bin before I got health insurance but lived next door to a Mexican botanica. My goal is to reduce inflammation. Garlic pieces and ginger slices work too.

If you have severe or moderate COPD, take your Daliresp pill. I have allergies to Bermuda & Johnson Grass, so I have allergy pills to take–an OTC generic equivalent of Claritin called Loratadine, a non-drowsy tablet and now Montelukast, my newest prescription. Montelukast is actually the pill version of Singulair, and one of the cheaper lung-related prescriptions. I keep a daily pill reminder box by my bed, as I have a total of six per day–not all bad lungs related. By the way, since you’re taking all these pills have a water bottle next to your bed. The more water you drink, the more the mucus will be thinned.
Here’s my second original tip. If you have a C-PAP machine for sleep apnea, you can use it when you’re wide awake to force air into your inelastic, sagging emphysema-ridden lungs! Don’t overuse your nebulizer; try a wide range of strategies to stop the COPD attack.
Lately, I started taking Vitamin D and magnesium. I read a wonderful booklet about the benefits of magnesium for the lungs after my move of February 2018.

Please check out my methods for battling severe COPD exacerbations! Maybe I have a higher tolerance for pain than many, or a fear of walking home from the E.R. before sunrise? I wrote this article after coping with a severe attack lasted for 1 hour & 40 minutes; editing followed the intial blog!!
And when you quit choking, take those long-lasting spray/powders: Advair or Symbicort and Singulair or whatever.

Consider calling your G.P. M.D. later for an office visit. After this epic COPD attack, I got a shot of Salumedrol, a steroid, at her office. Then I got prescriptions for prednisone pills and a Z-Pac antibiotic.

Why I Teach for World Teachers Day (2nd Edition)

I love to teach because I enjoy research and explaining it to students. I’m a people-person who is very extroverted, despite spending a lot of time reading and writing. The highlight of my 20-year teaching career was ten years in Developmental English/Writing, a pre-College Composition course. It’s one of three remedial college courses; the others are Developmental Reading and Math. I’ve substitute taught in every grade from PK-12 and in most subjects, aside from upper level math and science. Writing this article poses a challenge since the prompt is “Why I Teach” rather than a biography of one’s teaching career. Yet the latter would be supporting details.

I should answer why I taught Developmental English/Writing. I prefer teaching grammar and writing to literature, partly because the former two seem more essential. For me, literature is watching a re-run of The Rockford Files or JAG. My first five years were as an adjunct at Mountain View Community College, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in North Oak Cliff. My last five years were full-time at Texas College, an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in Tyler. Remedial education presents a boom area. It’s a fixture at community colleges and open-enrollment colleges. The USA has the paradoxical reputation of the world’s best colleges but fairly weak elementary and secondary education. Sounds like developmental education is ready for the rescue!

Furthermore, I wrote, copyrighted, and illustrated a textbook for my course. Several chapter sections have been published as articles–partly to build an audience.  Connexions of Rice University is the most prestigious. was discontinued in summer 2014. Writing a textbook really is taking your teaching to a higher level. The toughest part of my task will be transferring hard-copy back to documents in the computer. Some chapter sections no longer live in cyberspace due to the “passing away” of computers, flash drives, CD’s, and the possibly extinct floppy disks.

I struggled with required Spanish in my mediocre B.A. era, but I started self-study of Spanish again after completing secondary certification in English and Social Studies. I found myself drawn to substitute teaching and adult classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). My first lesson for me was how to order a meal in a taqueria. An early lesson for adult ESOL classes was “At the Construction Site” for the men, and “Cleaning Supplies” for the wives.

Later I subbed in Bilingual Elementary and Spanish, up to 4th year. I published  a clothes unit article and a songs article at Lesson Plans Page. I taught ESOL partly to see the world while staying in north and east Texas; plus it fits in with my meat-and-potatoes approach to Language Arts. Later I developed Bilingual All-Level Academic Vocabulary (BALAV). It’s a search for cognates because technical English is descended from Latin and formal English is derived from French–both Romance languages like Spanish. Informal English is descended from German. Most Texas secondary textbooks have a glossary in English and Spanish.

I communicated with a disability rights group to see how I could make some extra money without losing SSDI or Medicaid/Medicare–ideally through my textbook. To summarize, a trial work period can be nine non-consecutive months. COPD & asthma started me on disability before other issues were discovered. However, my Medicare D would crater if I made little over $100 in a month. So if I finally do something with my textbook again, it better be Open Source (aka. “free”).

I serve on the transportation committee of East Texas Human Needs Network (ETHNN), and teach people how to use the Tyler bus map. Together with explaining the practicality of the two-bus hub structure of Tyler Transit for a rectangular city, I’ve written a couple of articles on nearest bus stops for the five lines and organized three transpo. committee field trips. I’m so excited that we went to Tyler’s newest Mexican grocery store during Hispanic Heritage Month 2015–Supermercado del Pueblo in the northwest side of the city. Otherwise, North Tyler is a virtual food desert unless you go to the Super One (a branch of Brookshire’s) on the southeast edge of the Northside. Thank goodness for dollar stores!

My aptitude for teaching showed at a remarkably early age. I watched Spanish on the local PBS channel as a five-year old. There’s a laminated Dallas Morning News article tacked to a wall in my place about me getting on the show! Unfortunately, I flaked out and quit studying Spanish because of my disapproval for my weird elementary school’s methods.

I developed an passion for paleontology in 1st grade. I gave nine lectures that year, even to 8th grade. I still remember the geologic time table. On a humorous note, I wrote song called, “Diplocaulus, I’ll Never Stop Loving You,”  a song dedicated to large boomerang-headed amphibian of the Permian.

I developed an interest in Japan in 3rd grade, followed by the Mayas and Aztecs in 4th grade. Seventeen years later, I wrote a M.S. thesis entitled, “Approaching Cognitive-Behavioral and Existential Therapy through Neo-Confucianism.” A few years ago, I downloaded my thesis onto my site at  A Twitter fan since late 2011, my thesis was “favorited” by the South Asian Psychology Conference of Sri Lanka. I added information to “The Boston Confucians,” a Wikipedia site. I was invited to “Friends from Afar”  a closed Facebook group and the Ruist Fellowship–two Boston-based Internet groups; the former has discussions and the latter gives and checks essay homework!

To conclude, I keep up with my beloved Twitter site at bohemiotx, write articles at my two Word Press articles, and work on my textbook. I belong to the East Texas Human Needs Network (ETHNN) and the Community Health Workers Coalition (CHW). Studying and tweeting about my health issues has really gotten me recognized in the health care social media field! I got a big charge the other idea by explaining how to make pho, the national dish of Vietnam, to a veteran on the bus. That same day, I gave a list of Maya cities on the Yucatan Peninsula (after the Toltec invasion) to a newlywed, who could only afford to sail around the coast. Old teachers may retire but they never stop teaching.

A New Instructor in a College Classroom During 9-11-01, by JD Meyer

Everybody who was alive in America on 9-11-01 and the next day remembers what they were doing during that tragedy. My situation was unique as a brand-new White instructor at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities): Texas College of Tyler. I taught Developmental English–four courses. I used my own textbook (and kept adding to it) for the course, worked on a website, and tutored Spanish. The vast majority of profs at the small bachelor’s level liberal arts college had many courses to teach; some upper-division classes were taught only once every four semesters.

An older-than average lady student (future “A”) came to my door from the Developmental Reading instructor’s lobby and asserted, “Mr. Meyer, something really bad is happening. I think you should come look at the TV.” I told my class that I’d be right back, and they were working in the Writing lab anyway. Then I saw the shocking sight of the twin skyscrapers burning from the crashed jet. My initial reaction was shock through assuming pilot error–a dumb but very unintentional act. I quickly learned how wrong was my guess–something vastly worse: suicide terrorists.

The next day (Or was it two days later?), all of the staff tried to console our students. Yes, it was two days later; the college was closed the following day. I recalled which student I’d been talking with right before the crash. Several weeks later, I drove him to a local doctor for help with his sickle-cell anemia.

Then I apologized for my short-lived guess of pilot error. But my conclusion was that tragedy doesn’t always follow bad times. Tragedy can occur after what had been an average, good, or great day.

Nine-eleven will continue to be remembered much like December 7, 1941. Both days will “burn in infamy,” as Franklin D. Roosevelt lamented about the sneak attack that started USA participation in World War II

“Kwanzaa Revisited, January 2015 at Tyler Spoken Word,” by Joffre (“JD”) Meyer

“Kwanzaa Revisited, January 2015 at Tyler Spoken Word,” by Joffre (“JD”) Meyer

Tonight’s talk is going to be on Kwanzaa. I didn’t first learn of Kwanzaa when I taught at Texas College from 2001-06 but when I was substitute teacher in the Garland ISD back in the late 90’s. Since I usually did elementary, I ran into some Kwanzaa children’s books. A speaker on Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC this morning noted that only 92 of 3200 recent children’s books have Black protagonists, so it’s good that Kwanzaa is helping a challenged field of publishing. Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga of University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) to improve Black self-esteem after the 1966 Watts Riots—a case of questionable police activity followed by riots and Black-on-Black property damage. This Pan-African cultural holiday honors the first harvest while bringing together seven universal principles: (1)Unity, (2) Self-Determination, (3) Cooperative Work & Responsibility, (4) Cooperative Economics, (5) Purpose, (6) Creativity, and (7) Faith. My four talks in Tyler were Creativity (2002), Purpose (2003), Self-Determination (2), and Cooperative Economics (2009). Before my “Kwanzaa: Summary & Reflections,” was published at Connexions of Rice University, I had three small articles published at two now defunct websites.

Kwanzaa Expanding
Education World asserted how “to learn about Kwanzaa, the world’s fastest growing holiday, with these activities and Internet links.” In 2014, 20 million people are expected to celebrate Kwanzaa. Johannesberg, South Africa had some great themes this year. Unity Day at Noon featured open mic poetry and music with inspirational messages, performances by children and youth, and a Kwanza market—complete with books, jewelry, and fabrics. The focus for Cooperative Work & Responsibility was “Hip-Hop & Poetry.” Cooperative Economics examined “Resolving Hidden Hunger through Cooperative Economics.” Purpose offered “Women’s & Men’s Dialogue on How to Support Each Other.” Furthermore, there was a Pre-Kwanzaa event two weeks before the holiday’s start with story-tellers, dancing, drumming, and a pot luck banquet.

Critiques of Kwanzaa: A Hoop-Duh for Faith Night, Another Made-Up Holiday
Unfortunately, some are determined to criticize the very existence of Kwanzaa as a made-up holiday or for disapproval of Dr. Karenga as a young man. Dr. Karenga served time for an assault before turning around his life, and at one time proclaimed Marxist political theories. Some accuse of Kwanzaa of being anti-Christian.
I’ve seen first-hand the ease of Faith Night being led by a prominent minister locally. African-Americans are an overwhelmingly Christian ethnic group anyway. So you can’t tell me there’s something inherently anti-Jesus about Kwanzaa, which is why I’m talking in a “hoop-duh” voice right now. I owe this skill to my teaching colleague, Rev-Coach Robert Thomas, the pastor of Tyler’s Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America (CPCA). Rev. Thomas goes into the hoop-duh style at his sermon’s end to summarize and recommend, just like a good essay!
Let’s take an irreverent look at Santa Claus. As a child-less man, I can’t imagine what it must be like to look at your small child and tell the little one about a benevolent giving being from the North Pole who drives a sleigh with flying reindeer, moving at the speed of light. Is Daddy is having an acid flashback (lol)! At least when I was a wee child, I figured he started in the Eastern Time Zone and traveled west to get everywhere at midnight. But I fell for the story basically, just like everybody else. Have you heard the joke that a black kid questioned if a white man would climb down a chimney in his neighborhood? Then Christmas is held on December 25th to compete with some Roman Sun God even though the birth of Jesus was supposed to be in spring. The pine tree tradition came from German pagans and so on.

The Effort to Serve as a Public Intellectual
Before delivering my fourth Kwanzaa talk, I had the insight that Kwanzaa is the effort to serve as a public intellectual. I have been a long-time fan of Dr. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto—the developer of the Creative Class paradigm. Dr. Florida teaches business and creativity too. He asserts that economic development in cities depends on the Four T’s: talent, technology, tolerance, and territorial assets. A public intellectual brings his or her scholarship to societal issues outside of his or area of expertise. Dr. Florida’s wife, Rana, is a serious scholar too and is the CEO of the Creative Class. I’m honored to have become friends with her on Linked-in and Facebook within the past year.
Last fall, I stumbled onto an article by a former colleague of mine, Dr. Ibiyinka Solarin, about the public intellectual and one of his heroes, Wole Soyinka. They’re from Nigeria. Let’s look at some highlights from the Dr. Solarin’s general description of the public intellectual. “The intellectual…is at once engaged with his or her society and contributes in his or her own little way to impart knowledge and lower the bar of ignorance. As a result of his exposure to varied reading and other cultures, he is impatient that his society ‘gets it right.’His restless spirit is constantly in turmoil, raising questions, seeking explanations, accepting no easy answers. While other acquiesce in the face of what is patently injurious to the interest of society, he raises his voice, he is not afraid of the powers-at-be…He knows that some of his ‘friends’ are in fact agent provocateur…who crave to be in the bosom of the establishment…because frankly, that’s where the power is.”

Highlights of Past Kwanzaa Talks
Creativity is the only principle that was both a talk and a published article at the now defunct, formerly Associated Content. It’s good practice to begin a Kwanzaa talk on a specific principle by referring to Dr. Karenga’s Kwanzaa prefers to focus on the applicability aspect of creativity, to leave the community better than when you found it, and to repair the worn-out. Gifted and talented research lists four attributes of creativity: originality, fluency (lots of ideas), flexibility (adaptability) and applicability. The other three creativity traits seem to point toward the goal of applicability.
As for boosting Black self-esteem as an educator, I required an essay on Black History and began researching African-American and Pan-African history. At first I felt a little uncomfortable teaching a virtually all-Black audience about their history, but then I realized I could be saving my students from possible future embarrassment for not knowing about their history. This research evolved into a 40-something page chapter in my textbook and some annotated link pages.
During Cooperative Economics, I described the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program at University of Texas at Austin. It’s a consortium of several departments that work on solving societal problems, the opposite of ivory tower style research. Inadvertently, IE as served as a force for diversification for it draws minority and first-generation students into graduate school. They have a mentor program between graduate and undergraduate students as an introduction to the program. Later I would write an article that if IE was at UT-Tyler, it could help the city’s Industry Growth Initiative (IGI) Strategy #1 by generating more money for research. This article was not only re-printed at UT-Austin but also found its way to the Creative Class Library’s Education division of the University of Toronto where it’s had over 1000 reads.
Another tradition for me is to list the awards received by the City of Tyler during the Texas Downtown Conference. The dividing line between big and small city is 50,000, so Tyler is a big city as its population is roughly 100,000. 2014 saw Tyler Downtown win three awards, sharing top honors for Best Public Improvement—The Fair Parking Garage and Best Marketing—the African-American Heritage Trail. Regions Banks won the award for best downtown business outright. In past years, I’ve summarized the City of Tyler ‘s Tyler 21 program, a long-range plan for urban development and renewal.

Twi vs. Swahili?
A new article by Columbia professor and Black conservative columnist, Dr. John McWhorter contends that Twi would be a better African language to learn than Swahili because it was spoken throughout West Africa ever since slavery from Senegal to Angola. Centered in Ghana (then the Gold Coast), many West Africans spoke Twi as a second language also. Furthermore, the name “Kwame,” is Twi, and Kwame Nkrumah was the founder of Ghana. Many West Africans coming to America still speak Twi. Nigerian Yoruba is a popular language now but not during the age of slavery. Dr. McWhorter compares proclaiming the primacy of Swahili is like a Brit toasting with vodka and drinking borscht in honor of Europe! Swahili is spoken in East Africa, a region of emigration only in recent decades. Dr. McWhorter observes that Twi is easier to learn than Swahili. Nevertheless, most Kwanzaa celebrators have grown accustomed to Swahili for a handful of ceremonial terms, so it’s an inconsistency that here to stay. But if you really want to talk to talk to an African in his native language, your chances would be better learning Twi or Yoruba in most of the US. Nelson Mandela once wrote, “If you wat to talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you want to talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. “ That saying brought back memories of when I sang Tejano Karaoke at Los Desperadoz of Arlington on Friday night in Arlington and received a warm response from the Mexican-American audience. Yes, I taught English as a Second Language (ESOL) too.

Conclusion: Kwanzaa Exhibits Neo-Confucian Concept of Change and Some Ideals of Ma’at
To conclude, I feel that Kwanzaa exhibits the Neo-Confucian concept of societal change. One must have a sincere will before the societal conventions in order to keep the spirit of the ancients who created them. I f one feels that existing social customs or whatever is needed, then it’s time for a change or addition; that is ch’eng-yi to li.
Here are some of my favorites from the 42 Ideals of Ma’at—an Egyptian winged goddess that I discovered on Facebook right before this talk. Hopefully, I really live up to these ideals or at least really want to do so: I benefit with gratitude. I regard all altars with respect. I offer words of good intent. I honor animals with reverence (often bringing Pounce treats and cat brush too). I invoke laughter. I converse with awareness. I achieve with integrity. Thank you.