A great vocabulary should be in every writer’s toolbox.
Using new words can turn dull, listless writing into something far more readable.
Early this month, we had a quiz testing your vocabulary by looking at commonly confused words.
As we end January, let’s have another quiz, this time about commonly misused words. You know…words we use that we don’t know the real meaning of.
One name: Iñigo Montoya.
Let’s have a bit of fun today with this short quiz testing your vocabulary and word usage.
This should be a piece of cake. Enjoy!
So what did you get? Feel free to share it with your friends and find out who’s better! (No, we’re not competitive at all.)
Grammar can be a pain in the butt, but who says it can’t be fun?
Etymology, today’s topic, technically doesn’t fall under grammar, but my discovery is too fun not to share with all of you.
A guy who runs the blog Ideas Illustrated has taken it upon himself to apply some color-coding technology to English text to make the concept of English word origins more visual.
If you are a visual person like me, then this endeavor is definitely a welcome one!
What he did was to rely on Douglas Harper’s online dictionary of etymology to determine the language of origin of particular words. He then did some HTML magic (magic for some, common knowledge for others) to come up with visually catching paragraphs.
Let’s take a look at a sample.
This is an excerpt from – you guessed it – Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Obviously, without a guide, those colors mean nothing to you. Take a look at this, though.
The writer went further and examined various kinds of texts ranging from legal to medical – even sports! The results were almost the same: majority of the words originate from Old English. While that is not surprising, what I found interesting were the other word origins.
If you take a look at the original post at Ideas Illustrated, I think you will have a bit of a blast clicking on the color-coded words in the passages. They are hyperlinked to their etymology, so you might want to make sure you do not have pressing matters to attend to if you tend to get totally immersed in this kind of thing.
Here’s a question for you. What English word do you know has a strange/interesting origin? My pick is boondocks which comes from the Filipino word bundok. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives this explanation:
1910s, from Tagalog bundok “mountain.” Adopted by occupying American soldiers in the Philippines for “remote and wild place.” Reinforced or re-adopted during World War II. Hence, also boondockers “shoes suited for rough terrain,” originally (1944) U.S. services slang word for field boots.
Isn’t that cool?
Why would anyone want to dish out insults? I am a firm believer in courtesy and respecting other people. As much as I can, I keep insults to the minimum. However, I have to admit that there are times when you just can’t help but think insulting things. You might even be justified on certain occasions.
If you are a writer, you’ll probably have more reason to make an insulting remark or two. I think that this is especially true if you write fiction, and your characters have a rough edge to them. So is there an art to dishing out insults? Probably.
I will not claim to be an expert in this matter, but I have found some interesting words that can be used to insult others. The fun part is that the recipient just might not get the fact that he is being looked down on. Here are some of my picks.
DISCLAIMER: In spite of the examples that I will be using below, I am not suggesting you go insulting others with this post. Let’s just look at it as an exercise in expanding your vocabulary.
The next time someone behaves like a condescending [insert insult here], be a little more creative and say “You’re superbious!” He might even think that you are giving him a compliment instead of the other way around! Of course, that all depends on how much sarcasm you put into your tone.
How many times have you called BS on a statement? While it is a commonly used term, especially in informal situations, there are many situations when you might not want to use it. How about buncombe instead? It basically means the same thing, and it does not sound as crass.
I like this word, if only for the reason that it reminds me of a rooster. It is used to refer to a person who is full of himself – a boastful, self-important person. I am sure you know a cockalorum or two!
Doesn’t this sound just as silly as the previous insult? If someone tells you you’re a mumpsimus, you better do a self-evaluation. This word refers to someone who is so stubborn that he continues making a mistake even after it has been pointed out.
Merriam-Webster has funny list of top 10 rare and amusing insults, if you want more.
Now remember what your mom always taught you about being polite!
Image via the|G|
Sarah Palin may not have succeeded in her quest to become the Vice President of the United States, but her time in the spotlight is not really over. While she did not` seek to be re-elected as the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has been busy with a host of other activities. Her own TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is attracting some attention, together with her Twitter account: @SarahPalinUSA.
Some time this year, Twitterverse was abuzz with Sarah Palin’s tweet using a one-of-a-kind word. Can you spot it below?
“Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”
To her credit, I actually got what she meant after reading that tweet. Of course, just because I understood what she meant doesn’t mean that the word is real. Indeed, at that time, the word was not officially recognized. This is the perfect example of how dynamic language is. Several months after people were enjoying laughing at Sarah Palin’s boo-boo, the tides have turned – big time.
I don’t know if you have heard about it, but refudiate has made it to the the “real world.” The New Oxford American Dictionary editors have made it official: refudiate is a word. It doesn’t stop there, though. More than being a word, it is the word of the year.
The official definition according to the NOAD:
refudiate verb used loosely to mean “reject”: she called on them to refudiate the proposal to build a mosque. [origin — blend of refute and repudiate]
So who is laughing now?
To be honest, I am not averse to using this word – as bizarre as it may seem – in the future. Who knows? You just might see it in the Grammar Guide one of these days.
What do you think about this year’s word?
When I was teaching ESL, lessons on confusing word pairs were inevitable. The level of the learner was irrelevant. My students all needed clarification on certain word pairs. Interestingly enough, I have discovered than even native speakers of English have similar issues. The words in question may be of a more advanced level, but the confusion remains. Just take some time to browse blogs, and you’ll find at least one example!
For this week’s grammar post, let us take a look at some of words that are used interchangeably, when they shouldn’t be.
I’ll be honest here and tell you that I did have a problem with these two words. I suppose it was simply because of ignorance – I used to think that they were the same! There is a difference, though. Let’s call on good old Merriam Webster for some help.
Ingenuous: showing innocent or childlike simplicity and candidness ingenuous thirst for experience — Christopher Rawson>
Ingenious: marked by originality, resourcefulness, and cleverness in conception or execution ingenious contraption>
Next time you are amazed at a new invention/discovery, you know which word to use!
Let’s take a look at the formal definitions of these words.
Prosecute: to bring legal action against for redress or punishment of a crime or violation of law
Persecute: to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief
For me, the trick is in remembering that the “pro” in “prosecute” goes hand in hand with lawyers (professionals). Persecute, on the other hand, I associate with “informal” harassment.
With only a one-letter difference, it is easy to understand why these two words can cause confusion. There is a big difference, though.
Turgid: being in a state of distension : swollen, tumid <turgid limbs> OR excessively embellished in style or language <turgid prose>
Turbid: thick or opaque with or as if with roiled sediment <turbid stream> OR characterized by or producing obscurity (as of mind or emotions) <turbid response>
For the first definitions, the difference is easy to spot and remember. In terms of language and/or response (second definitions), the chances of slipping up may be higher. Try using these words when you can so that you’ll never forget the proper use!
Now to answer the question that is the title of this post…
Are you ingenuous or ingenious? I would like to think both! 😉
Photo credit: Kristian D.