Grammar 101: Gorilla or Guerrilla

The “spell check” feature built into word processors, web browsers, and other pieces of software can come in very handy. However, it is partly because of the ubiquitous nature of the “spell check” that we are seeing, ironically enough, an increase in the number of spelling mistakes.

That’s because when you run the “spell check” function, it only really searches for words that aren’t in its pre-defined dictionary. If it’s in there, it deems it as correct, even if it is wholly the wrong word for the situation. Such is the case when I hear people writing about “gorilla marketing” and “gorilla warfare.” Unless you’re talking about King Kong doing battle, that’s the wrong spelling.

“Gorilla” and “guerrilla” have totally different meanings, despite sounding very similar. This is the similar situation that people may encounter when using words like hoard and horde or even terms like regime, regimen, and regiment. They may sound similar, but they’re not the same.

A gorilla is the animal. It is the primate on which characters like King Kong and Donkey Kong were based. A gorilla is the mammal that was extensively studied by scientist Dian Fossey.

A guerrilla is a member of an armed resistance, typically participating in combat against a larger and stronger force by using unconventional means. They’ll use sabotage and traps, for instance. This later coined the term “guerrilla marketing” to refer to unconventional forms of advertising that are designed to generate buzz and “turn viral.”

So, now that you know, please don’t call it gorilla warfare unless you happen to be in the forests of Borneo and you witness an alpha male being challenged by another large primate.