For all the wordies among our readers, here’s another collection of things to think about. This time, uses of words and how they sometimes conflict.
The first one involves “flush out” or “flesh out,” which you hear people say when they are referring to adding to the something to make it more complete. The good use is “flesh,” which means adding meat to those bones.
The word “flush” is wrong, because it makes us think of driving something out, like quail out of the bush.
To me, the next one is easy, but not everyone can differentiate between “compliment” and “complement.” Merriam-Webster, the source of my information, says remember complement, with an “e” as the same as complete, with an “e.” Two happy spouses tend to think of themselves as complementing people.
And often, because they complete each other, they receive compliments.
Here’s “proceed” and “precede,” which I seem to find most in obituaries. “He was preceded in death by his wife.” “Precede” means to go before. “Proceed” means to go forward. So the parade proceeds down the street.
You don’t really have trouble with these, do you? I guess some people do, since they are on the list. It’s “accept” and “except.”
To remember, if you need to, think of exception, as whatever has not been referred to previously.
Will you accept that definition?
Next are “then” and “than.” “Then” is when you are talking about a sequence. We will go here, then there.
“Than” is for comparisons. I’d rather have chocolate than vanilla.
Have you ever used either of the next two paired words? Probably not. They are “torturous” and “tortuous.” “Torture,” as it sounds, is something referring to torture, really painful, difficult or unpleasant.
“Tortuous” means something overly elaborate and complicated. Like the twists and turns of a plot. Kin to the word “torque.”
And these, I think, can be easy to confuse. They are “imminent” and “eminent.”
“Imminent,” like immediately, means something about to happen.
“Eminent” means prominent or famous. At UTMB, there are several eminent doctors.
Another tricky pair: “discrete” and “discreet.”
“Discrete” means separate. “Discreet” means something not likely to be seen or noticed. “He made discreet inquiries about the job.”
“Persecute” and “prosecute.” You know these, I’ll bet. To prosecute somebody, you need a legal process. To persecute people, you just treat them cruelly. This column, for instance, is probably persecuting some of you.
You would not think these last two would confuse anybody, yet they do. “Lose” and “loose.” Words related to lose have only one “o.” Like lost, loser and loss.
These cause confusion, according to Merriam-Webster, because of the odd spelling. “Lose” should rhyme with “nose,” but it rhymes instead with “shoes.”
“Loose,” on the other hand, rhymes with words you would expect like “goose,” “caboose,” “moose” and “noose.” All with double “oo.”
Gather up all these loose words and don’t lose your train of thought.