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This week we'll present seven pairs of easily-confused words. This being Wordcraft, however, our pairs will not be so commonplace as imply/infer or lie/lay.

We start with a pair half of which is familiar. Its history may also explain the oddity that we pronounce 'indict' without its c-sound, to rhyme with 'incite' rather than 'inflict'.

indict – to accuse of a crime or other offense
indite – to write down; describe

The two words have a common source in Middle English enditen, to accuse, write a document. That source in turn traces back to Vulgar Latin indictare, with the -dic- root for 'to say', as in 'dictation'.
quote:
In the spring of 1899 I became conscious of the fact that there was another Winston Churchill who also wrote books; apparently he wrote novels, and very good novels too, which achieved an enormous circulation in the United States. I proceeded to indite my trans-Atlantic double a letter which with his answer is perhaps a literary curiosity.
- Winston Churchill, My Early Life: 1874-1904
 
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Today's words, each exceedingly rare, form an interesting pair.

cervine – pertaining to deer
cervisial – pertaining to beer
quote:
By Christmas all but one of Charlie Pienta's shotgun shells were used up in scaring off the deer, but still she kept coming back. Despairing of my ineffectuality, may wife reached a young man who had grown up hunting and who loved venison. Slim and politely spoken, he came and stood in the driveway, listening to Gloria's tale of cervine persecution.
- John Updike, Toward the End of Time, ch. i: The Deer [citation condensed]
 
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exigent – requiring immediate attention; demanding; exacting
exiguous – scanty; sparse; meager
quote:
Construction on the new juvenile hall, already four months overdue, could come to a halt altogether today. ...The situation is made more exigent, the report state [sic], by overcrowding at the current juvenile hall next door.
- Tri-Valley (California) Herald, Nov. 4, 2003

... increasingly, the electorate is being turned off by candidates who believe they must engage in half-truths, innuendo and dirty tricks to get elected. ... From my vantage point, the campaign season has resembled one giant refuse bin, a lot of political garbage and exiguous substance.
- Donald V. Adderton, Delta (Mississippi) Democrat Times, Oct. 26, 2003
 
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fulgurate – to flash, like lightning
fuliginous – sooty or of soot [a word little used since Henry James]
quote:
Linguists observe and analyze facts of usage; traditional grammarians are pledged to judge those facts. But "embedded in these disputes and complaints is a philosophic problem of the first magnitude. The problem of what to teach youngsters in English is first of all a question of value, not fact." (M. Bloomfield 1953). "At present we are at an impasse," Nunberg has written. "Both sides fulgurate, while in the middle the lexicographers and educators often counsel an enlightened hypocrisy: even if the canons of good usage have no real justification, it is best that people be aught to conform to them so as not to give offence to traditionalists."
- The Cambridge History of the English Language: Volume 6, English in North America [quotation abbreviated]

On the beach, masts and chimneys interlaced, and like a fuliginous shadow the figure of Albertine gliding through the surf, fusing into the mysterious quick and prism of a protoplasmic realm, uniting her shadow to the dream and harbinger of death.
- Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
 
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risorial – pertaining to laughter
a rare word, akin to 'risable' and to Fr. rire to laugh

rasorial – given to scratching the ground for food (as chickens do)
akin to 'razor', with the common concept of scaping. Here are some metaphoric uses:
quote:
They looked toward the door, saw only the paunchy guest of the evening moving toward it, in an unsteady rasorial attitude as though following a trail of crumbs to the great world outside.
– William Gaddis, The Recongnitions

The rasorial crew of Medicare auditors finished their quest for any improprieties that might grease his path to the gibbet, and found no cases – not one! – of unneccessary surgury.
– F. Paul Wilson, Implant

Bonus word: gibbet - a gallows (technically, of slightly different construction)

In the quote about, Mr. Wilson continues his bird-imagery by playing on gibbet/giblet
 
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congener - something akin to or resembling another
congeries – a conglomeration; heap or mess
conger – a large, scaleless marine eel

The tiger bounds to the help of his congeners without the least reflexion, or else he slinks away into the depths of the thickets.
- Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

The Melbourne Cup is the Australasian National Day. It would be difficult to overstate its importance. It overshadows all other holidays and specialised days of whatever sort in that congeries of colonies. Overshadows them? I might almost say it blots them out.
- Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun, Nov 21, 2003

Fortunately, the conger eel lay dead and gutless in a bucket at the Cornish fish market the Tory leader was visiting in an attempt to escape his Westminster
– The Scotsman, UK, Oct 18, 2003
 
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Our confusing-pairs theme ends with an interesting example. Both sample quotations are from the same work; both are very interesting in content, and in some usages even the author - or more likely the publisher - became confused and used the wrong word! What better proof that the pair is confusing?

antinomy – a paradox in which two contradictory principles are both correct
antimony – a brittle, silvery-white elemental metal

quote:
But is it acceptable to maintain that the soul, or the mind, is material? If it is a physical thing like stones or water, it must be determined by physical laws; it cannot be free. But how can we say that the soul or the mind or the will is not free? We are more certain of our freedom than of anything else ... If we accept the notion of a determined, material mind and soul, we are faced with the absurdity of morality, for if we are not free to act as we wish, then how can we be held responsible for our actions.

Again we have an antinomy. We can accept Democritus's assumption that our bodies at least … are part of the material universe, but we cannot accept that our minds and souls and wills are material and belong to that world. ... The tension built up by this antinomy, too, has proved to be fruitful over the centuries.
- Charles Van Doren, A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future, p. 40

--------------------------------------------------------------

[Guttenberg] invented four basic devices, all of them used in printing until the twentieth century. ... The second invention consisted of alloy of lead, tin, and antimony out of which the cast letters were made. ... Antinomy [sic] was needed to make the type hard so that it would withstand the making of a number of impressions. The mixture of lead , tin, and antinomy [sic] was used until very recently to make type.
- Charles Van Doren, A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future, p. 153


Teaser question: Per Van Doren, this alloy was the second of Gutenberg's four basic inventions. What were the other three?

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Sat Nov 29th, 2003 at 23:49.]
 
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So far as I can recall all were to do with printing. At a guess they were the press itself and the idea of moveable type set in formers. He is credited with having printed the first ever book useing moveable type (a Bible) and this became known as the "Gutenburg Bible".

So that's three if you count the book itself!

Richard English

[This message was edited by Richard English on Sun Nov 30th, 2003 at 7:49.]
 
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Wordcrafter, this has been a fantastic thread. Many of the words were new to me.
 
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Wordcrafter, this has been a fantastic thread. Many of the words were new to me.


I have to agree. I knew three. Frown

(I only knew conger because I often read about ocean life.)
 
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