When the exterminator comes around, you might have a “nervous tick,” but if you’re referring to a sudden muscle spasm, you need the word “tic.” There are a few definitions to be aware of with these homonyms actually.
Specifically, a “tick” (noun) can be:
- a bloodsucking arachnid (related to spiders, who knew?),
- a recurring beat or click (as in a clock),
- a small dot or check (perhaps marking something off of a list), or
- a movement in the price of a stock on the Stock Exchange.
On the other hand, a “tic” (noun) can be:
- a sudden muscle contraction (as noted above) or
- a personal quirk.
I know this seems complicated. Clocks “tick-tock,” and you can play “tic-tac-toe”; where Rikki-Tikki-Tavi falls in the midst of this, I don’t know.
One little letter can make all the difference. Make sure you know what you’re doing.