Welcome to another episode of…
Today: Disambiguating confusing words.
I have compiled a list of words that you may have heard from time to time, even used when feeling brave, but whose meanings are a bit obscure to most people. Well, it’s finally time to get a handle on these often misunderstood members of the lexicon.
1. Bemused vs. Amused
Bemused should not be confused with amused. In fact, you may be amused to hear that bemused means confused. Think of it as befuddled fused with confused. Are you sufficiently bemused yet?
2. Supposedly vs. Supposably
I covered this in my post, Insert Title Here. Supposedly is more common and, to me, sounds more like an adult word than supposably. But, both are real words. Supposedly means allegedly, and supposably means able to be supposed, something you are unlikely ever to need to say.
3. Continual vs. Continuous vs. Contiguous
Again, I’ve gone over this before, but apparently English speakers were not paying attention. Continuous mean constant, unbroken, or uninterrupted, whereas Continual means frequently recurring. Your brother may continually poke you, several times a day, in an effort to drive you crazy. But he’s not continuously poking you, unless he superglued his finger to your rib cage in 1973 and has been poking you ever since. If he were superglued to you, however, the two of you would be contiguous, which means touching, or sharing a border.
4. Reconnoiter vs. Reconvene
Reconnoiter does not mean to “get together,” or reconvene, or regroup. Rather, it’s a military derived term that means to observe and gather information (to conduct reconnaissance). Even if you try to sound military, it makes no sense to say, “We’ll reconnoiter at Starbucks at oh sixteen hundred hours.”
5. Chagrin vs. Surprised, or whatever most people think it means
What you hear people say: “I was rather chagrined to discover that he is my nephew.” What it means: “I was rather humiliated to find out that he was my nephew.”
6. Erstwhile vs. Meanwhile or Hopeful
Erstwhile is a perfectly good, if a bit antiquated, word. It means former, or in the past. Meanwhile happens at the same time. Some people use erstwhile as “hopeful” or “wannabe,” as in “My erstwhile sidekick does not yet know the ropes.” An “erstwhile sidekick” would be like Captain America’s boy pal, Bucky, years after he fell to his death.
7. Sanguine vs. Calm
Finally, I would like to make clear that sanguine means cheerfully optimistic. It literally means full of blood, which I guess is such a good thing that it leaves one cheerfully optimistic.
Of course, there are countless other words that English speakers mix up, but if you use the words from this list correctly, you will both impress and annoy people everywhere, which I assume is your goal. So good luck & good wording.
Don’t stop here! Spend more time in Daisybrain… peek under this flower: