accessory, accomplice

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS An accessory assists in an illegal act, although he need not be at the scene of the crime. He can be an accessory before the fact if he helps plan or set up the crime, or he can be an accessory after the fact, if, say, he helps the culprit get away. […]

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allocate, allot

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To allocate something is to set it aside for a specific purpose. You can be allocated a parking space. To allot something is to give it, but with an understanding that it is being shared. If you are allotted five minutes to make a speech, you’re probably having to share the time […]

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admittance, admission

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS These words are similar, but not synonymous. Admittance refers to gaining entry to a place, while admission may refer to a right or privilege of entering. Thus, you may gain admittance to the Lotos Club as a guest, but not admission as a member. Admission may also be used figuratively in, say, […]

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muff

  By HOWARD MUNCE A muff  is a tube made of fur or other warm material designed to slip both hands into for warmth. Another kind of muff  is a botched catch where the ball player drops the ball, possibly because his hands are cold. In which case a fur muff  might have been more […]

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diagnosis, prognosis

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS  A physician’s diagnosis of an illness is his identification of it through his examination of the patient. The prognosis is the physician’s considered guess about the course of the illness. Incidentally, the condition is diagnosed, not the patient. A physician who thinks he diagnoses his patient should have a good look at […]

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founder, flounder

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To flounder is to struggle awkwardly, to stumble helplessly, to flop about like a flounder out of water. If a horse founders, it may collapse from overwork, or get stuck in a bog. If a ship founders, it sinks. Don’t say, “The ship foundered and sank.” That’s redundant. If the ship foundered, […]

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double negative

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS If you don’t want no trouble From things you write or say Drop the negative double. Don’t never use it, no way. That Shakespeare, as was his wont, Said “no”  two ways won’t help you. Now, when you say double don’t It means you really do.    

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stringed, strung

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A violin is a stringed instrument, which means merely that it has strings. You might say a violin is strung if you’re talking about it having been fitted with strings, as must be done, sooner or later, if you are to have a stringed instrument. If the strings are wound too tight, […]

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naturalist, naturist

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A naturalist studies animals or plants or natural history. If a naturist studies nature, he does so in the raw, for naturist is simply another word for nudist. Some nudists prefer the word naturist, because it doesn’t sound quite so socially naked. You might call it a euphemistic cover-up.

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candid, candidate

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS In ancient Rome, politicians seeking election to office wore white togas to symbolize the purity of their motives. They were expected, of course, to be candid, that is, frank, open and sincere, for which the Latin was candidus, literally, “shining white.” The word for those politicians was candidatus, which is Latin for […]

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