Word Confusion: Flecks versus Flex

Posted July 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 1 September 2017

I’m guessing that the author who wrote that her character flecks his muscles did not mean to point out flecks of light glistening on his muscles. But that’s just a guess.

The most common perception of a fleck is of small flashes of light reflecting off small patches of color, bits of gold, crystals, a glint from a window, and a fleck can also be tiny pieces of color. Flecks of charcoal or soot. Flecks of cake where the baby dropped his crumbly handful. Verb-wise, it is the act of creating small patches of color. Some artists might consider spattering a form of flecking.

Flex is always going to be bendy, whether it’s bending a length of wiring cable or bending one’s joints, for good or ill. I must confess my first thought when reading flex is of some hunky guy contracting and releasing his muscles. Yep, it’s a yummy sort of thought *grin*.

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. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Flecks Flex
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Sheep grazing in South Staffordshire

“Winter Grazing in South Staffordshire” by Roger Kidd is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

The flecks of white on the ground are millions of spiders’ webs which were all over the field, glinting in the late afternoon sunlight.

David is a bodybuilder and flexing his muscles

“David, the Bodybuilder” was created by Layne Norton and uploaded by Wikidudeman. It is under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

David is a professional bodybuilder flexing his muscles in a classic pose.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for the noun and third person present verb for fleck

Noun 1; Verb, transitive 2

Past tense or past participle: flecked
Gerund or Present participle: flecking

Noun 3, 4;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: flexes
Past tense or past participle: flexed
Gerund or Present participle: flexing

A very small patch of color or light

  • A small particle or speck of something

Verb, transitive:
Mark or dot with small patches of color or particles of something

[British] A flexible insulated cable used for carrying electric current to an appliance 3

The action or state of flexing 4

Verb, intransitive:
Bend a limb or joint

  • [Of a limb or joint] Become bent
  • [Of a muscle] Contract or be tensed
  • [Of a material] Be capable of warping or bending and then reverting to shape

Verb, transitive:
Bend a limb or joint

  • Cause a muscle to stand out by contracting or tensing it
  • [Usually as an adjective, flexed; Archaeology] Place a corpse with the legs drawn up under the chin
His blue eyes had gray flecks in them.

Flecks of sunshine lit up the shade under the willow tree.

She was brushing a few flecks of dandruff from his suit.

Verb, transitive:
The minarets are flecked with gold leaf.

Has he installed the flex yet?

add rigidity and eliminate brake flex.

Verb, intransitive:
This will prevent the damaged wrist from flexing.

She watched, fascinated, as a muscle flexed in his jaw.

You should always set windows in rubber so they flex during an earthquake.

Verb, transitive:
She saw him flex his ankle and wince.

It’s weirdly fascinating to watch bodybuilders flexing their muscles.

This culture is known for their flexed burials.

History of the Word:
Late Middle English. The noun 1 is possibly from the Old Norse flekkr while the verb 2 could be from the Old Norse flekka or from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch vlecke. 3 Early 20th century as an abbreviation of flexible.

4 Early 16th century from the Latin flex- meaning bent, from the verb flectere.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Birds, Smoke and EOD is courtesy of the Marines from Arlington, VA, United States, and is in the public domain while Stort bål sankthans by Malene Thyssen is under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation, and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, via Wikimedia Commons.