Monday, 7 September 2020

Easily confused?

 This is a vocabulary post. There are pairs of words whose meanings are different but look so similar that some people find it hard to know which to use in any given situation. Take "uninterested" and "disinterested."

If you are "uninterested" in something, as I am in all sport except Men's Grand Slam tennis, it means you take no interest in it; it is not for you.

"Disinterested" is what you want those adjudicating sport to be, whether umpire, referee or line judge, having no personal or financial "interest" in the outcome. It's the same as "impartial." It never means not having an interest in something, in the sense of not finding it interesting.


Then there's "imply" and "infer." I imply; you infer. In other words, to imply is to suggest something - "I wouldn't buy a used car from him," whereas to infer is to pick up the suggestion - "You mean he isn't trustworthy?"

"Affect" and "effect." To affect something is to have an effect on it! "Knowing his past history with women affects my decision whether to go out with him" and "The effect of what she told me made me say no."

"Complement" and "compliment." You "complement" something by adding to it, making it more effective or complete. "That colour really complements her red hair." Whereas to "compliment" someone or pay them a "compliment" means to say something nice to someone. "She complimented her friend on her new dress" or "He paid her the compliment of listening to what she had to say."

"Emigrate" and "immigrate." You can't to one without the other. You "emigrate" from the country you are leaving and "immigrate" to the country you are moving to. When we talk about "immigrants," we should remember that they are "emigrants" from somewhere and think about why.

"Flaunt" and "flout." I see this mistake in printed books. They are both verbs. You "flaunt" your good looks, your car, your superior grasp of grammar. You "flout" the rules or the conventions.

"Loose" and "lose." One is an adjective and the other a verb. "Loose" is the opposite of "tight." And "lose" is the opposite of "win." They don't even sound the same.

"Stationary" and "stationery." These do sounds the same. The way to remember the difference is that "stationery" is sold by a "stationer." Whereas "stationary" means static or standing still.

"Fawn" and "faun." A fawn is a baby deer and gives its name to a sort of beige colour. A faun is a creature like Mr Tumnus in Narnia and is human above, goatlike from the waist down. Its also sometimes called a satyr.

"Hoard" and "horde." Another pair that sound the same. A hoard of gold is what Smaug the dragon sits on and a horde of people is a crowd, often a hostile one.

                                                                      A hoard of treasure
                                                     Statue of Attila the Hun and his horde


3 comments:

Andrew Preston said...

Yes, I've noticed various examples of what seems to be a millennial adopting some phrase or word, sometimes mangling it around a bit, and then not only making it their own, but claiming they'd invented the original.

But generally, I steer clear of argumets about this or that generation.

One that I smiled at, and indeed , commented on was a video on Youtube about the Normal People TV series. The video author, in their approximately early 20's, explained to the viewers various aspects of the happenings involving Connel and Marianne. One was the phrase ... "Did you get the ride...?". This was explained, for the benefit of everyone not of the millenial generation, that this was a sexual reference.

At which point my finger hit the Reply button, to say that as far as I knew, the phrase was in fact almost a piece of ancient wisdom, not remotely of the last 20 years.

On your comments about the use of 'for' rather than 'about'..., yes, I tend to agree. However..

My father died 21 years ago. I stared down at his body in the funeral home, and felt nothing. Same at his cremation. My mother died 10 years ago. I looked at her in the nursing home, and felt not much. Come the day of the cremation, family, friends, gathered at the crematorium. As the hearse arrived, the guys got out, started removing the coffin. Beside me, 2 of my nephews, one a teen, and one in his twenties..., burst into tears.

I looked around, and remarked.. "You seem quite upset..". Neither replied. In the moments after, I briefly reflected that what I had intended was to sound understanding, but that it hadn't quite come out like that.

So..., a couple of years ago, a neigbour and friend of mine moved away to live nearer his daughter. About 6 months later his daughter left a text message on my phone. I can't recall her exact words, but the implication was that her Dad had died. Remembering my previous attempt at sympathy and understanding, before I called her back, I internet searched on what to say, and ..

what came up was "I'm sorry for your loss.". So I said that, and it went down rather well with her.
Whereas, I was just thinking right now that .. "I'm sorry about your loss.." does seem to me to have a certain ring of "Oh dear, how sad, never mind.." about it ?
And I was

Andrew Preston said...

Oops. I intended the above to reply to your earlier, Preposition, post.

Mary Hoffman said...

That's fine, Andrew. Sorry it's taken me a while to reply but I've been in holiday.Yu are quite right about "I'm sorry for your loss," which I think came from America. Of course we'd say we were "sorry for" a person but in this stock phrase it really does have the sense of "about." Interesting example.