Word Confusion: Mach vs Mock vs Muck

Posted March 2, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 18 February 2018

You can “mock about with all the settings”, but if all you’re gonna do is make fun of it, I don’t think you’re gonna get very far.

Now… if you “muck about with it”, I think you have a much better chance of making it work.

If you can do it at Mach speed, that’d really be good, lol.

NOTE: The first two Word Confusions — Mach and mock 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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Mach Mock Muck
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: mock and muck

Jet flying out of a circle of cloud in a blue sky

“FA-18 Hornet breaking sound barrier”, 7 July 1999, by Ensign John Gay, U.S. Navy and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

An F/A-18C Hornet going to Mach speed.

16th or 17th century armour and weapons. Jouste - Tjost - Turnier; museum Zwinger, Dresden.

“Dresden-Zwinger-Armoury-Tournament” is Ingersoll’s own work and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Costumes for mock play.

An wide muddy path through fields

“Mud on the Trail” is courtesy of Oliver Dixon under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

A muck of a gateway on Hadrian’s Wall National Trail which runs 84 miles from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for noun: Mach

A.k.a., Mach number

Adjective; Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: mocks
Past tense or past participle: mocked
Gerund or present participle: mocking

Noun; Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun: muck
Third person present verb: mucks
Past tense or past participle: mucked
Gerund or present participle: mucking

The ratio of the speed of a body to the speed of sound in the surrounding medium. It is often used with a numeral, etc., to indicate the speed of sound, twice the speed of sound, etc. Adjective:
[Attrib.] Not authentic or real, but without the intention to deceive

  • [Of an examination, battle, etc.] Arranged for training or practice, or performed as a demonstration

[Dated] An object of derision

A contemptuous or derisive imitative action or speech

  • Mockery or derision

An imitation

  • Counterfeit
  • Fake

[Shipbuilding] A hard pattern representing the surface of a plate with a warped form, upon which the plate is beaten to shape after furnacing

[Journalism; printing; of a newspaper, magazine, etc.] To go to press

  • Start printing

Verb, intransitive:
To use ridicule or derision

  • Scoff
  • [Often followed by at] Jeer

[Often followed by at] To behave with scorn or contempt (towards)

  • Show ridicule (for)

Verb, transitive:
Tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner

  • Make something seem laughably unreal or impossible
  • Mimic someone or something scornfully or contemptuously

To attack or treat with ridicule, contempt, or derision

To mimic, imitate, or counterfeit

To challenge

  • Defy

To deceive, delude, or disappoint

Dirt, rubbish, filth, slime, or waste matter

  • Farmyard manure, widely used as fertilizer
  • Dung
  • [Informal] Something regarded as worthless, sordid, or corrupt

A highly organic, dark or black soil, less than 50 percent combustible, often used as a manure


  • Mud

Defamatory or sullying remarks

A state of chaos or confusion

[Chiefly British; informal] Something of no value

  • Trash

Verb, transitive:
[Muck up; informal] Mishandle a job or situation

  • Spoil something
  • To ruin
  • [Often followed by up] Bungle
  • [Often followed by up] To put into a state of complete confusion

[Chiefly British; muck out] Remove manure and other dirt from a horse’s stable or other animal’s dwelling

[Rare] Spread manure on land

[Chiefly British; informal] Behave in a silly or aimless way, especially by wasting time when serious activity is expected

  • Spoil something by interfering with it
“Mach 1 is equal to the speed of sound. Mach 0.65 is 65% of the speed of sound (subsonic), and Mach 1.35 is 35% faster than the speed of sound (supersonic)”.

“As the Mach number is a dimensionless quantity rather than a unit of measure, with Mach, the number comes after the unit.”

” In the decade preceding faster-than-sound human flight, aeronautical engineers referred to the speed of sound as Mach’s number, never “Mach 1.”

Mach Number

“She said it was a mock-Georgian red brick house,” George replied, as he peered out into the dark.

Jim threw up his hands in mock horror.

Dukakis will have a mock debate with Barnett.

He has become the mock of all his contemporaries.

She made mock of his attempts to interest her.

The agency can create a 3-d mock up, so you have a better idea.

Verb, intransitive:
George mocks at everything. Don’t take it personally.

Verb, transitive:
He mocks them as Washington insiders.

At Christmas, arguments and friction mock our pretense of peace.

His actions mock convention.

I’ll just clean the muck off the windshield.

Paul can’t believe the muck that passes for music in the pop charts.

Janey made such a muck of things.

“Get this muck out of here,” he shouted.

Verb, transitive:
He spent his summers mucking about in boats.

They did not want designers mucking about with their newspapers.

“Jack, can you muck out the stables next?”

Geez, what more can he much up?

Paul was mucking about with the printer, trying to get it to work.

Abbreviation: M., Ma.
Adjective: mock-heroic, mock-turtle, mockable, mocker, mocking, self-mocking, unmocked
Adverb: mockingly
Noun: mock-heroic, mock-heroics, mock-up, mocker, mockery, mockingbird, mocktail, mockumentarian, mockumentary, mockup
Adjective: mucky, muckier, muckiest
Noun: muckety-muck, muck-a-muck, muck-spreading, muck-up, mucky-muck, mucker, muckiness, muckraking, muckraker
Verb: muckrake
Phrasal Verb
muck about
muck around
muck around with
History of the Word:
1937, named for the Austrian physicist and philosopher of science, Ernst Mach, who did important work on aerodynamics and laid its foundations. Late Middle English from the Old French mocquer meaning deride. Middle English muk, is probably of Scandinavian origin. Compare with Old Norse myki meaning dung from a Germanic base meaning soft.

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:

Transsonic Flow Over Airfoil 1 was originally uploaded by Prkl75 at English Wikipedia, Amishaa convert to svg, and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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