Angela’s ABCs: Words Easily Confused, Sliver and Slither
While being offered a slice of birthday cake the other day, someone said they’d love to have just a slither. It sounded more or less correct until I thought about it a bit more, and realised that what they meant was a sliver, or a small slice.
Sliver is most usually used as a noun meaning a slender piece cut, split, or broken off; a splinter; or a small narrow piece, portion, or plot.
- The bottle shattered sending small slivers of glass across the floor.
- Problems were caused by a small sliver of land which apparently didn’t belong to anybody.
- If all the slivers of wood from the true cross were pieced together, the resulting structure would be enormous.
Slither is most usually used as a verb meaning to move smoothly over a surface with a twisting motion; to glide or slide like a reptile; to walk with a sliding or shuffling gait; or to slip and slide, as on a loose, slippery or uneven surface.
- The snake slithered menacingly over the fallen leaves, flicking its tongue as it went.
- Because of the rain, the snow had turned to ice, so we slithered unsteadily down to the shops.
- The crate slithered down the chute, jolting noisily into the cellar below.
One way of remembering the difference is to say to yourself that snakes slither but cakes don’t.
You’ve only described slither the verb but to use slither the noun to describe a very thin piece of cake would be perfectly correct.
I always wonder why people are so quick to assume others are wrong and then go and publish something on the Internet about it!
I think many people would disagree with you as well as many dictionaries, though the OED agrees with you. I don’t think it’s about what’s right and what’s wrong but it’s more about usage and the evolution of language and I have as much right to express my view on the Internet as you do.
I disagree. The word is sliver. I suspect people have misheard the word and thought it was ‘a slither’. I can’t accept this any more than I can accept people saying “Wallah!” instead of “Voila!”.