Saturday, January 30, 2010

Some Misused Words And A Hint

Perhaps you have heard these words misused? Does it drive you up the hall like it does me?

Stanch and Staunch

Stanch is a verb that means "restrain a flow." Staunch is an adjective that means "firm in attitude, opinion, or loyalty." Both words are pronounced the same way. The distinction is actually quite recent; a hundred years ago, the two words were treated as interchangeable spelling variants. Such is no longer the case, so it's important to distinguish one from the other.

Imply and Infer

Imply means to "hint or suggest without stating directly." Infer means "reach an opinion from facts or reasoning." The two terms are sometimes mistaken to be interchangeable. In actuality, they are quite distinct. The sender of an indirectly stated message is doing the implying, while a receiver that reasons what the message is is doing the inferring.

Flaunt and Flout

Flaunt means "display ostentatiously." Flout means to "disobey openly and scornfully" or "show contempt for." Some use one for the other, but confusing the two words is still widely seen as an error and best avoided.

Continual and Continuous

Both continual and continuous describe an action or process that occurs over a long period of time. Continual, however, permits that the action may be interrupted by short breaks. Continuous means that the action never pauses. We live continuous lives, eating and sleeping continually.

Aggravate and Annoy

Aggravate means "worsen." Annoy means "bother" or "exasperate" or "provoke." Many speakers and writers use aggravate to mean "annoy." Although aggravate has been used in this manner for four hundred years, considerable controversy over this use exists today. Some contend that using aggravate to mean anything other than "worsen" compromises the effectiveness of the word by blurring the distinction it has from similar words. Others argue that annoy can be said to mean "worsen one's temper," which suggests that aggravate is not so inappropriate to use as a synonym for annoy after all. Understand that aggravate means "worsen" and not "bother," but then feel free to use aggravate in contexts where it would be taken to mean "worsen one's temper" rather than "bother" or "irritate."


A quick tip -

Do you have difficulty pronouncing such words as similarly and regularly?

A good way to get past the problem is to say these words as if they were names. Similar Lee and Regular Lee should become your friends. I am sure you can find other Lee's in your vocabulary neighborhood.

1 comment:

  1. I once signed a greeting card "Loverly"....just because I could.