flaunt, flout

By RICHARD H. PARKE The two words can appear the same to some of us. They’re not. Flaunt means to display proudly or ostentatiously. Flout is to disobey openly and, most importantly, scornfully. We flaunt our ignorance if we flout established grammatical principles.    

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avenge, revenge

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To avenge is to vindicate, to take vengeance on someone who has caused an injury or committed a wrong. It is generally used in the sense of achieving justice, or making the culprit suffer something more or less equivalent to his offense, whereas revenge is the satisfying of the offended party’s resentment, […]

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chair, chairman

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS Chair was once a perfectly good word, meaning a seat with a back and sometimes with arms. It was a thing to be sat on, and sometimes where a person with authority sat, that is, a place from which the person in the chair (the chairman) would conduct a meeting. Although chairman […]

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accord, award, kudos

To accord is to render an honor, and implies a spontaneous bestowal “prompted by the dictates of the heart,” as Frank Vizetelly put it in his famous “A Desk-Book of Errors in English” 110 years ago. The word comes from the Latin, cor, for heart. An award implies a grant that is given after careful […]

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winning, winsome

A winsome person is charming and pleasant, maybe even a bit lighthearted. We’re more likely to speak about a winsome woman, especially if the woman is capturing the heart of a man. Winning often describes one aspect of a person: a winning manner, or a winning smile. A team can be a winning one, but […]

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waist, waste

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS You may think that what you see in the mirror these days is more waste than waist. But there is no waste in the sense of something lost or diminished, apart from your figure. The words have the same Teutonic roots, as does wax, which means “to grow.” The waist is so named […]

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alienate, antagonize

  By LAWRENCE FELLOWS  To alienate is to estrange, to divert something, as one person’s affection might be turned away from another. To antagonize someone is to rub him the wrong way, to provoke his hostility in any number of ways – by your selfishness or loudness, the clothes you wear, the look you give […]

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want, wish

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS Want and wish both suggest a longing for something, although want often suggests a stronger sense of immediacy and wish connotes a more remote feeling. Ask any figure-conscious person who wishes to stay thin, but still wants the chocolate that’s been offered.

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peak, peek, pique

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A peak is a high point. For a dog, it could be a pat on the head or a steak bone after dinner. In Shakespeare’s time, peak could also mean to waste away, as in “Macbeth:” …dwindle, peak and pine. A peek is a brief or furtive look, a look like one […]

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abbreviate, abridge

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To abbreviate a thing is to reduce it or make it smaller, as a word might be shortened by leaving letters out, so that the whole thing can still be recognized in the smaller version. To abridge a thing is to reduce or condense it, as a report might be expressed in […]

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