Word Confusion: Chord versus Cord

Posted February 19, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Lately, I’ve been coming across a lot of text referring to someone playing an instrument, specifically, that they’re playing cords on a guitar. And, I suppose it is possible that just because a guitar has strings, that one could imagine that they were playing with the strings on the guitar.

I’ll just assume that they’re not making music since they are only futzing with the strings. Or, then again, maybe the character is brushing the guitar’s strings with corduroy fabric. Yeah, yeah, that’s it, they’re rubbing “cords” on the guitar’s strings. It’s a bit muffled, but, hey…

Now, if the character really wanted to play music, if they wanted people to assume they had some clue about what to do with those cords strung up on their eight- or twelve-string guitar, that, maybe, perhaps, they’d play some CHORDS. Ya know, like putting several fingers in specific areas on a guitar’s fret and then strumming the fingers of their other hand above the hole to produce a harmonious sound.

Of course, if they just wanna play with the cords…then surely no one will assume a cat is yowling in pain…

Be careful using cord as a verb. It seems as if it should be a noun when used as a verb, but has everything to do with binding or piling up. A tricky bugger, that one. And in another side note, chord and cord are heterographs.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Chord Cord
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam Webster

“Psalms Chord” created by User:Hyacinth under theGFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

“Coil of Rope Web” courtesy of FreeFoto

A cord of rope can come in many thicknesses and materials.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive (usually used as a noun)

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: chords
Past tense or past participle: chorded
Gerund or present participle: chording

Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: cords

A group of typically three or more notes sounded together, as a basis of harmony 1

[Mathematics] Straight line joining the ends of an arc 2

[Aeronautics] Width of an airfoil from leading to trailing edge

[Engineering] Each of the two principal members of a truss

[Poetic/literary] String on a harp or other instrument

[Anatomy] Variant spelling of cord, “spinal chord”

Verb, intransitive:
Play, sing, or arrange notes in chords

Long, thin, flexible string or rope made from several twisted strands

  • A length of string or rope used to fasten or move a specified object
  • An anatomical structure resembling a length of cord
  • A flexible insulated cable used for carrying electric current to an appliance

Length of such material, typically one used to fasten or move a specified object

Ribbed fabric, especially corduroy

  • [Informal] cord or cords
  • [Cords; informal] Corduroy pants
  • A cordlike rib on fabric

Any influence that binds or restrains

A measure of cut wood, usually 128 cubic feet

Verb, transitive:
Attach a cord to

Furnish, bind, or connect with a cord

Pile up (wood) in cords

It was a G major chord.

The triumphal opening chords made us all sit up.

What was that chord you used?

Well, that certainly struck a chord!

Dickens knew how to strike the right chord in the hearts of his readers.

Verb, intransitive:
He’s chording in G, F-sharp, and B-flat.

Mom, I can’t find my dressing gown cord.

He hung the picture using a length of cord.

Do we have any more electrical cords?

We’ll need several cords of wood for the winter.

Has anyone seen my black cord jacket?

The accident crushed his spinal cord.

The baby was still attached to his mother by his umbilical cord.

He was dressed in faded black cords.

Verb, transitive:
He wrapped the cord around the trunk.

It’s a clever trick using the cord to hold the lid on and form a carrying handle.

Jack piled up cords of wood for winter.

Tie these cords together.

Adjective: chordal, chordotonal
Noun: chording, chordophone
Adjective: corded, cordlike
Noun: corder, cording
History of the Word:
1 Middle English cord from accord, meaning agreement, reconciliation, which later evolved into a musical concord or harmonious sound.

The spelling changed in the 18th century to chord with its current meaning.

2 Mid-16th century, influenced by the Latin chorda or rope.

First known use: 15th century

Middle English which evolved from the Old French corde which evolved from the Latin chorda which itself evolved from the Greek khordē meaning gut, string of a musical instrument.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Hughes & Kettner amps @ FUZZ Guitar Show 2009” by Karl Jonsson from Göteborg, Sweden, uploaded by Guitarpop under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.