The parson mug prize draw #6

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Override versus overwrite. Or table soccer as morale booster

It happens quickly. We write overwrite but mean override – or vice versa. But what does that have to do with table soccer?

Fotolia TableSoccer© vladimirs, FotoliaFirst things first. What is the difference between override and overwrite?


Suppose you want to increase morale in your work team. You suggest that you and your coworkers play a match of table soccer in the office every Monday morning. Your coworkers are delighted. They collect money and buy a table soccer table. The following Monday morning, the first match takes place. But when the managing director learns about your table soccer match, he stops it immediately and cancels all future table soccer matches. He overrides you. He also fires you.

Override means to make (something) no longer valid, to have more importance or influence than (something), to stop an action that is done automatically by using a special command.


  • The settings in this file override all other specifications.
  • The application settings usually override the control panel settings.
  • Congress overrode the President's veto.
  • These new rules override the old ones.


You cannot accept loosing your job because of a work-morale-boosting table soccer match. Then you realize that, in his anger, the managing director forgot to remove your access rights from the corporate network. For the last time, you sit down at your computer. You find yesterday’s backup file and you overwrite the new order by the managing director (which forbids table soccer at the workplace) with your old one (which explicitely encourages table soccer). This little trick will most likely not help you or make things even worse, but it serves us as an excellent example.

Overwrite means to replace information (a computer file) with new information.


  • Any attempt to overwrite the file will result in an error message.
  • Click OK to overwrite the current preferences file with the new configuration.
  • Use this option to overwrite existing files in batch mode.

As a non-native speaker, I find it hard to pronounce these two words in such a way that you hear the difference. Merriam Webster offers these wonderful audio files. So I will begin to practice right away.

Sources and examples are from:


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