GrammarPhile Blog

These Words Can Make You Look Smart...or Dumb.

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jun 5, 2013 5:30:00 AM

magnifying glass over wordsThe right word can make you appear more authoritative and therefore more trustworthy. The wrong word will let people know that you are incompetent. Do your part to stop the dumbing down of English and make sure you are using the following words correctly in your writing.

disc. Spell it with a c except for computer-related references: laserdisc, videodisc, disc jockey, but hard disk.

discreet, discrete. Discreet means capable of preserving prudent silence: "I'm afraid Jen was not very discreet on Sunday," she wrote.

Discrete means constituting a separate entity, or individually distinct. There are four discrete calls made by a loon.

ice age. AP says this: Lowercase, because it denotes not a single period but any of a series of cold periods marked by glaciation alternating with periods of relative warmth. Capitalize the proper nouns in the names of individual ice ages, such as the Wisconsin ice age.

The most recent series of ice ages happened during the Pleistocene epoch, which began about 1.6 million years ago. During that time, glaciers sometimes covered much of North America and northwestern Europe. The present epoch, the Holocene or Recent, began about 10,000 years ago, when the continental glaciers had retreated to Antarctica and Greenland.

pore, pour. These are often confused. One pores over [reads or studies attentively] an intricate set of numbers, while one pours a bucket of water on a fire.

raised, reared. Humans are reared; all living things, including humans, may be raised.

take over, takeover. take over is a compound verb, We will take over the administration building next; takeover is a noun or an adjective, He was taken out and executed during the takeover; Their takeover plans were foiled.

Some interesting word origins. Stump your friends by asking if they know the etymologies (origins) of the following words:

radar. radio detecting and ranging

quasar. quasi stellar

laser. light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

snafu. situation normal, all fouled up [Note: fouled was originally another word that we will not print here.]

Kmart. The K is taken from the original name of this chain, S.S. Kresge Co.

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